Using low-income energy programs to help reduce water use in what the California Public Utilities Commission calls a \u201cwater-energy nexus,\u201d regulators Aug. 14 closed out outstanding issues in its California Alternate Rates for Energy program and the Energy Savings Assistance Plan. \u201cWe\u2019re asking utilities to think out of the box and coordinate with other [governments] and water providers,\u201d said commissioner Catherine Sandoval. The savings assistance program is an efficiency \u201cgateway,\u201d which can include making water heaters more efficient \u201cto allow people not to waste so much water while they wait for it to get hot,\u201d she added. The decision aims to increase the \u201ccomfort of low-income\u201d consumers and \u201cexpand their participation,\u201d commissioner Mike Florio said. The ruling follows up on a 2012 decision to invest $4 billion to support alternate low income rates, and $1 billion in the assistance plan. The efficiency issues refined in this week\u2019s decision include: \u2022\tDeveloping a multifamily strategy for the efficiency program; \u2022\tReviewing energy assistance cost-effectiveness for past work; and \u2022\tExamining pilot programs, such as high-efficiency area furnaces. \tRegulators also approved utilities\u2019 requested budget increases for the plan\u2019s implementation as follows: \u2022\tSoCal Gas, $38 million; \u2022\tSan Diego Gas & Electric $3.7 million; and \u2022\tSouthern California Edison, $19 million. \t\t While the issues entailed in the efficiency impacts of subsidized rates are technical, there\u2019s a great deal of interest in them. Twenty community-based organizations, including La Cooperativa De Campesina, the Black Economic Council, and the California Housing Partnership Corp. were involved for their constituents. For instance, the latter promotes multi-family housing for low-income customers.