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According to the American Water Works Association, indoor per capita water use in the typical single-family home is 69.3 gallons. Conservation methods can reduce a household's water use to 45.2 gallons per day. Photo: Jenni Spinner

The past few years have been some of the most drought-stricken the United States has seen, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA). What's worse, a 2005 survey released by The U.S. Conference of Mayors predicts that nearly 40% of 414 cities surveyed will not have adequate water supplies in 20 years.

To combat water shortages, many cities are creating and expanding programs that give residents and businesses rebates or utility-bill credits for conserving water. These programs provide incentives for conservation methods such as grass-free lawns, and toilets, washing machines, and showers that use less water. Plus, they help cities save billions of gallons of water.

For example, the city of Albuquerque increased water-bill credits (from 40 to 60 cents) for converting grass lawns to native plant landscapes that require little water. Credits also are given to residents who reuse rainwater or install water-saving toilets, dishwashers, showerheads, and sprinkler timers. With these programs, the city saved 100 billion gallons of water since 1995.

In Charlottesville, Va., residents receive $100 rebates for replacing toilets with more efficient models. The city also offers free kits that include faucet aerators, dye tablets that detect toilet leaks, garden hose nozzles and repair kits, and outdoor watering gauges.

In California, not only do individual cities offer water conservation incentives, but the state also maintains a Web site as part of its Flex Your Power campaign. Residents can search the site (www.fypower.org) for rebates and incentives offered by local utility companies, water agencies, and public and private organizations.

The AWWA calculates that daily indoor per capita water use in the typical single family home is 69.3 gallons. Households can reduce this amount by about 35% by employing conservation measures.