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23 Jun

With all the rain, why is water conservation important?

As we look outside and it is still raining in June, we can’t help but ask why is water conservation so important in the Pacific Northwest?

In the “good ol’ days”, water utilities were able to put wells in areas where people were living. This made sense from an accessibility standpoint, but, unfortunately, these wells were diverting ground water from the mountain streams and impacting the amount of water available in the streams for the fish, wildlife and plants.

So, now, as our water demands grow, new wells must be put in locations that minimize the impact to the water flow. So, that means in areas closer to large bodies of water (i.e. Columbia River) and in some cases, at a greater distance from the populations being served.

In addition, during those glorious summer months, the water demand almost triples as we strive to keep our lawns lush and green. So, the water systems must be able to handle the summer irrigation demands.

So, what can we do about water conservation? We can take steps to minimize our water usage, especially during the summer months when demand is the highest.

Here are a few tips for you to consider during these months.

1. Check to make sure there are no leaks in your pipes. Turn all water sources off in your home and monitor the water meter to make sure there is no water flowing during that time.
2. Water in the morning when the temperatures are cooler and the wind is lighter.
3. Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting as longer grass holds soil moisture better than shorter grass.
4. Install a rain shut-off device on your sprinkler system to eliminate unnecessary watering.
5. Only water when you need to. Check this by stepping on the grass, if it springs back up after you remove your foot, it doesn’t need watering.
6. Install a rain barrel. This won’t completely reduce your need to use the irrigation system, but it does allow you to capture and re-use your rainwater.

Looking for more ideas? Try this website for lots of helpful tips.

02 Jun

How Do I Know…

how much water my toilet uses to flush the toilet? Well, that depends on the age of your house. In 1992, the U.S. government mandated that all toilets told in the U.S. be either low flow or low flush, which means they can use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). Prior to that time, a flush could use up to 7 gallons, depending on the model.

The low-flow toilets have gotten a lot of negative feedback and some people resorted to flushing twice to ensure that the bowl was clean. But, the manufacturers have worked hard to improve the performance.

Have you heard about those 1.28 gpf toilets? Ever wonder where that number came from? (I have). Well, in order for a toilet to receive the EPA WaterSense label, it must be 20% more efficient than average toilets and perform as well as or better than their counterparts. This all must be certified by an independent third party. (I did the math and 1.28 is 20% less than 1.6).

Another option for toilets is dual flush which handles the different types of waste streams differently. This was a popular concept when the low flow toilets weren’t working as desired and in some homes, they continue to be a good option.

Consumer reports did a survey of low flow and dual flush toilets in April, 2012. They commented that there was an overall improvement in the low-flow toilet performance. The toilets that ranked at the top of their survey were American Standard, Gerber, Toto and Kohler.

Installing any of these low-flow toilets is an option to conserve water, especially if you have the original toilets from a house built before 1992. But, you can do a few other things without purchasing a new toilet to minimize your water usage:

1. Don’t use your toilet as a trash can.

2. Check for a leaking toilet by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. After about 30 minutes, check to see if color shows up in toilet bowl. If you do observe a color change, you will need to replace the fill valve assembly.

3. Every six months or so, exercise the shutoff valves for your toilet. This preventive measure may save a lot of damage if a leak were to occur.

4. Inspect the supply line periodically.

5. Add a bottle of water, weighed down with sand, into your tank. This could reduce your water usage by 1/2 gallon per flush per toilet.