Blue Thumb, February 2012

IN THIS ISSUE:    · Conservation: a top priority    · What are the best ways to conserve?    · Does your insurance cover damage from wastewater back-ups?

CONSERVATION: A TOP PRIORITY

In 2010, we updated our long-range water supply plan, taking into account the possible effects of climate change and reduced customer water use on our estimates of future need.

 

 We thank our customers for continuing to use water wisely and for investing in conservation devices such as water-saving toilets and washers. We also thank the University for investing in the reclaimed water system so that highly treated wastewater can be used instead of drinking water for certain non-drinking purposes on the main campus. 

Our overall finding was that OWASA’s reservoirs can meet our community’s expected needs for the next 50 years under most circumstances. Current efforts to secure long-term access to our Jordan Lake water supply allocation are intended to provide an “insurance policy” for future conditions of extreme drought, especially between now and the time we are able to increase the supply of water from our Quarry Reservoir around 2035. 

A key finding of our study was that water use had decreased substantially since 2001 (please see graphic at right). Accordingly, one of the study’s strongest recommendations is that “...it is essential that the recent gains in water efficiency be sustained in the future for this Plan to be fully realized.”

We thank our customers for continuing to use water wisely and for investing in conservation devices such as water-saving toilets and washers. We also thank the University for investing in the reclaimed water system so that highly treated wastewater can be used instead of drinking water for certain non-drinking purposes on the main campus.   

WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO CONSERVE?

  • If your toilets were installed before 1994, you can save water and money every month by replacing them with new low-flow models. Old toilets may use more than twice as much water as current models. High efficiency toilets use only 1.28 gallons per flush (or less) compared to 3.5 to 5 gallons per flush for toilets installed before 1994. 

Toilet flushing is the primary indoor use of water in many residences, so it is a key opportunity for conservation. A new toilet may pay for itself in a few years by reducing monthly water and sewer costs.

For help in evaluating the potential payback from toilet replacement, please contact OWASA Public Affairs at 537-4267 or webmaster@owasa.org.

  • If it is not practical to replace an old toilet, you can reduce the flush volume by putting container(s) of water in the tank. (Please make sure they do not affect operation of the flapper, fill valve, etc.)
  • Flush less often or when you feel it is necessary, especially if you have pre-1994 toilets.
  • Check regularly for leaks in your plumbing pipes and fixtures (toilets, hoses, spigots, faucets, washers, irrigation system, etc.), and repair leaks quickly. Leaks can be very costly and may cause  property damage. Some research indicates that leaks account for 14% of residential water use. If you find and fix a leak, please contact our Customer Service staff at 537-4343 or customerservice@owasa.org to ask about getting a credit on your OWASA bill.
  • Check your monthly bills for unexpected increases in water use, which may indicate a leak.
    Toilets are one of the most common places for leaks, and toilet leaks can waste a large amount of water (potentially more than 100,000 gallons in a month). To check a toilet, put food dye in the tank (not the toilet bowl) and wait 15 to 20 minutes without flushing. If dye appears in the bowl, there is a leak (probably at the flapper or fill valve).
  • Take short showers (5 minutes or less).
  • Install high-efficiency showerheads, especially if you have showerheads made before 1994. Codes now limit showerhead water flows to 2.5 gallons per minute, but some showerheads use as little as 1.5 gallons per minute and provide a quality shower. By reducing your hot water use, you will also save money on your energy bills. 
  • If you have a traditional “cold season” grass such as fescue, consider replacing lawn areas with drought-resistant, non-invasive trees, shrubs or groundcovers that will maintain the beauty of your property while requiring little or no irrigation after they are established.
  • If you have a spray irrigation system, use no more than 1 inch per week and do not irrigate when it is raining and when the soil is still moist after rainfall. 
  • Wash dishes and clothes when you have a full load.
  • When it is time to replace a dishwasher or clothes washer, choose Energy Star rated models that will save water, energy, and money.
  • Turn off the water when not needed to brush your teeth, wash hands, etc.

Saving water also helps reduce the use of energy to pump drinking water and wastewater, and therefore reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Questions or comments? Please contact OWASA Public Affairs at 537-4267 or webmaster@owasa.org. 

DOES YOUR INSURANCE COVER DAMAGE FROM WASTEWATER BACK-UPS?

Wastewater back-ups may result from a blockage in either a public sewer or the private sewer pipe between a home or business and a public sewer.

You can help prevent blockages by not putting fat, oil, grease, or trash down the drain; and not planting trees or shrubs near a sewer line. (Fat and grease should be disposed of with household refuse, and used cooking oil should be recycled.)

OWASA periodically cleans and inspects its sewers, mows and clears sewer easements and does other work to minimize the potential for blockages in public sewers. The volume of overflows from our sewers is a fraction of one percent of the total wastewater we collect and treat.

Over the years, we have become aware of situations where a property owner had property damage in a bathroom or basement due to a wastewater back-up and then learned that his or her insurance did not cover the damage.

Since OWASA is not legally responsible for damages resulting from sewer overflows caused by events beyond its control, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance agent to find out whether your policy covers this type of damage.

If it doesn’t, you may want to consider adding this coverage. The cost varies but is generally inexpensive.