Cal Water's New Statewide Drought Call Center Opens

East Los Angeles District: proudly answering calls and saving water

By C.J. Salgado
Published on LatinoLA: September 5, 2015

Cal Water's New Statewide Drought Call Center Opens

With the recent heat waves in Los Angeles reminding us that we really live in a desert, you'd think using less water is not something we'd care to think about because water use usually rises dramatically in the hot summer months. But if statistics just released by the State Water Board mean anything, it's that we are doing just that, caring. We are taking water conservation seriously, both consumers and water suppliers. Take, for example, the East Los Angeles District for the California Water Service Company (Cal Water), where the statistics of water conservation and a new drought call center show their serious commitment.

Facing a fourth year of extreme drought conditions with no certain end, Governor Brown mandated a 25 percent water use reduction for cities and towns across California starting June 1. Under the emergency regulation adopted for this purpose, communities are given an individual conservation standard which takes into consideration their past conservation. As a result, communities may have a lower or higher mandate than the overall 25% required statewide. So, a community gets put into one of nine "conservation tiers" with a minimum conservation standard of 4% to a maximum of 36%.

For July Cal Water's East Los Angeles District was asked to conserve 8%, among the lowest of over 400 water companies in California, and tied with South San Francisco for the lowest of all Cal Water districts. In fact, this district conserved over twice that mandated, 17%! Yvonne Kingman, Corporate Communications Manager for Cal Water, attributes such positive outcomes to a growing "behavioral change" in water consumers. We are recognizing the seriousness of the drought and saving water in many ways from watering our lawns less to taking shorter showers.

Dan Armendariz, District Manager for Cal Water's East Los Angeles District, which serves almost 160,000 customers, was so serious about water conservation that he pushed for establishment of Cal Water's first "Drought Call Center" in his local district office building in Commerce. This call center serves as a dedicated clearinghouse of information on Cal Water's drought-related programs for the entire state.

Just opened this past June when the new water conservation regulation took effect, and looking like an emergency operations center, the call center now employs eleven customer service representatives, specially selected from its districts across the state, serving to answer calls from customers with questions on the new drought regulation, Cal Water's conservation programs, and other drought-related issues. Sandra Millan, Call Center Supervisor, proudly boasts that her representatives as a group have almost 120 years of customer service work experience with Cal Water.

So they know their water stuff and take their responsibility to callers seriously. Millan said that they've been receiving about 250 calls per day with the average call lasting about 4-5 minutes. In contrast, the average call not related to the drought, takes about 2 minutes. It would seem that callers have lots of drought questions so they answer calls from 7 AM to 7 PM during the week and have an answering service for off hours. On a big screen in front of them, they constantly monitor their performance like how long it takes them to answer an incoming call with a goal of no more than 20 seconds.

Rachel, a customer service representative who's worked for Cal Water for nine years, is a "local" who came from the East Los Angeles District to the new statewide call center. She periodically looks up from her two desktop monitors toward the big screen at the front of the call centerover 100 inbound calls a wait in the queue, she smiles for a moment, takes a breath, and dives back into the serious business of helping to save the Golden State's most precious resource, that veritable liquid gold, water.

Cal Water customers may reach the Drought Call Center at (844) 726-8579, toll free.

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