The City of Ashland, Oregon has developed one of America’s premier resource conservation initiatives in a small community. Not only has Ashland implemented a range of energy efficiency programs, but the City’s approach with resource conservation has encompassed a broad array of activities including energy efficiency of electricity, gas, and firewood; regional air quality; recycling; composting; water saving initiatives; and an emphasis on land-use planning.
Electricity savings form the basis of the Conservation Division’s initiatives. Ashland’s programs have fortunately been supported by the Bonneville Power Administration, the region’s wholesale supplier. Since 1982, BPA has provided over $5 million in funding for energy efficiency programs in Ashland. As a result, the City has created nearly 10,000 MWh in total annual savings and 66,000 MWh in cumulative electricity savings. Over half of the savings have been generated in the residential sector, lowering customers’ bills and improving occupants’ comfort.
Ashland has also addressed the land-use implications of development and the interconnections between land, water, air, and energy resources. The City realizes that developments not only impact their immediate surroundings, but the community as a whole. Thus the City developed a comprehensive set of land-use ordinances to minimize negative aspects of development. Some of these are highly visionary: In 1980 Ashland pioneered solar access rights. The City rewards resource-efficiency in new developments by issuing "conservation bonuses" that allow developers to build more units than normal, easing travel, sprawl, and thus demands on gasoline and air quality. Site design requirements, such as those that address landscaping, encourage homeowners to plant shade trees, creating a win-win solution as trees not only are attractive amenities but can save on air conditioning and lawn watering.
Water conservation is another area where Ashland has excelled. Rather than building a new reservoir in an area marked by old-growth forest and fragile granule soil or building a 13-mile water supply pipeline to the City, after analyzing its options the City implemented a four-point water efficiency program addressing system leak detection and repair, realignment of its water rate structure, a showerhead replacement program, and toilet retrofits and replacement. These initiatives have resulted in daily savings of over a quarter million gallons of water, and have also saved energy used for heating hot water, reduced demands on the City’s waste water facility, and have significantly extended the date that the City will have to invest in additional supply capacity.
In essence, Ashland has employed a holistic approach to resource conservation, acknowledging that such an approach is critical for its quest to resource sustainability as well as enhancing the current quality of life. Thanks to a conservation ethic that has been developed and nurtured in Ashland, this small Oregon community serves as a model of comprehensive resource efficiency.
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