Water Conservation. These two little words typically bring to mind the old fashioned image of the weekly Saturday Night baths! It’s not necessary to go that far to conserve water and actually, it is something we should be doing all the time. When people call the office to talk about high bills or usage, the first thing we tell them is to check your toilets. Toilets use between 25-45% of the water on a water bill each month and an average of 20% of all toilets are leaking. Leaks inside one toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day or 6,000 gallons of water per month. That’s a lot of money getting flushed down your pipes!! Toilet leaks can be detected by adding a few drops of food coloring to water in the toilet tank. Wait about an hour, if the colored water appears in the bowl, the toilet is leaking. Check faucets and water taps. A tap leaking one drop of water per second wastes more than 450 gallons of water per month. A very small stream with an opening slightly larger than a pin-head can lead to almost 8,000 gallons of water per month being lost. Checking your home for leaks, just as we are checking the whole system, can help us all with water conservation. Our efforts will not only result in saving water, but in saving money on our monthly water bills. For more information or tips on further water conservation efforts or saving money on your bill, please call the office.
Ten Ways to Avoid Water Waste
- Do not over-water plants and lawns. Avoid water runoff into streets and gutters.
- For best results, try morning watering. Evaporation loss is at a minimum.
- Avoid washing down paved areas. Sweep driveway and sidewalks in garden cleanup.
- When washing the car… Use a bucket of water. Use the hose only to rinse.
- Repair faucet leaks. As much as 15 gallons of water can be lost each day with a slow drip.
- Avoid toilet water waste. Do not use toilet as a trash disposal.
- Don’t fall asleep in the shower. An extra five minutes in the shower could mean another 50 gallons down the drain. Use a moderate stream.
- The automatic dishwasher – use it wisely. Half loads cheat you out of full water use.
- Watch those laundry loads, too. Some 50 gallons of water are used to wash a load of clothes. Make every load count.
- Avoid the running faucet. Don’t run water continuously while shaving, brushing teeth, peeling vegetables, or washing dishes.
How to Check for Leaks
While you’re carefully watching your water usage, it’s important to make sure that water is not slipping away due to undetected leaks in your system. Here’s a simple procedure that can tell you if you have a leak and how much water you’re losing.
- Locate your water meter. It is usually located near the street in front of your home.
- Read the meter twice – first at night after the day’s water use has ended, and again in the morning before any water is used.
- Subtract the first number from the second reading to tell how much water (if any) leaked out overnight.
- If you suspect a leak, your pipes and connections should be checked and repaired quickly.
The toilet is a common source of unnoticed leaks. Undetected, hundreds of gallons of water can be wasted each day. Often leaks occur when the toilet is out of adjustment or parts are worn. Listening carefully for the sound of running water is a good way to detect a possible leak. Food coloring or a dye tablet added to the tank will also reveal water leaking into the toilet bowl. Drop it in the tank and don’t flush. If the water in the bowl turns color, you have a leak.
If you suspect a leak and need assistance in determining its location, please call our local office.
Wise Water Use in the Kitchen and Laundry
More than 10% of all water used in the home is used in the washing machine. An automatic clothes washer, at full cycle and highest water level, uses 30-35 gallons of water. The dishwasher is also a potential heavy user, requiring 25 gallons for a full cycle. Dishwashing with the tap running takes five gallons per minute – approximately 30 gallons per average washing.
Here are some tips for saving water in your kitchen and laundry:
- Instead of running water continuously, fill wash and rinse basins with water.
- Run only full loads in the dishwasher. Avoid using the extra cycle.
- Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap.
- Use your garbage disposal sparingly, using a garbage can for most kitchen waste.
- Wash only full loads of clothes on the short cycle in your washing machine.
- Check faucets and hose connections for leaks. Repair or replace whenever necessary.
Landscaping and Conservation
In the average household, water use doubles in the summer, primarily due to landscape irrigation. But, conserving water does not have to mean a dry, grown landscape.
Some Myths about Drought-Resistant Landscaping
- Drought-tolerant landscaping isn’t colorful. In truth, many drought-tolerant plants are prolific bloomers. In addition, by carefully choosing foliage colors and textures for contrast, you can bring color interest to the garden year-round.
- Drought-tolerant landscaping doesn’t require any water at all. Even drought-resistant plants require some initial watering to become established. However, once they are established, drought-resistant plants will get by on considerably less water than we have been accustomed to lavishing on our landscape.
How to Conserve
In the garden, try these water-conserving techniques:
- Use a variety of attractive low-water-using plants.
- Use a drip irrigation system to apply water slowly, reducing run-off and promoting deep rooting.
- Lay mulch, which can be made from readily available wood chips or leaf mold, act as a blanket to keep in moisture, and help prevent erosion, soil compression, and weeds.
- Preserve existing trees. Established plants are often adapted to low water conditions. Porous paving materials such as brick, decomposed granite, or gravel used in patios and walk-ways help keep water in the garden rather than in the gutter.
- Set automatic timing devices, which allow efficient watering on a schedule suited to each area of the landscape.
More Ways to Save Water in Your Garden
- Water in the cool parts of the day to cut down on evaporation.
- Add compost to your soil to improve its water-holding capacity.
- Check for and repair leaky hose connections and sprinkler valves. Small leaks can be very wasteful.
- Ask your nursery person about low-water-using turf, and raise your lawnmower cutting height. Longer grass blades help shade each other and cut down on evaporation.
- Don’t over-water – water only when the soil is dry.
- Water trees and shrubs – which have deep root systems – longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants, which require smaller amounts of water or more often.
- When planting, remember that smaller-size container plants require less water to become established.
Use Recycled Water to Save Even More Water in Your Garden
Waste water may be the simplest way to stretch your water budget during the hot summer months. Gray water, which is recycled shower, bath, and laundry water, can be used to keep thirsty plants alive, but some precautions should be followed. Because gray water has not been disinfected, it could be contaminated. A careful, common-sense approach to the use of gray water, however, can virtually eliminate any potential hazard.
The following precautions are recommended:
- Never use gray water for direct consumption.
- Gray water should not be used directly on anything that may be eaten.
- Gray water should not be sprayed, allowed to puddle, or run off property.
- Use only water from clothes washing, bathing, or the bathroom sink. Do not use water that has come in contact with soiled diapers, meat or poultry, or anyone with an infectious disease.
Plant specialists warn that gray water should not be used on vegetables, seedlings, container plants, or acid-loving plants such as azaleas, begonias, camellias, and citrus trees. Gray water should be rotated with fresh water to leach out any harmful build-up. Chlorine bleach may damage plants, especially if it touches the foliage. Biodegradable soaps appear to have the least harmful effects.
For further information regarding the safe use of gray water, contact your local office or your local health agency.
This list is a good representation of low-water consuming plants that are easily available. Please check with your local nursery for their suggestions about what is best suited to your area.
- Achillea (yarrow)
- Callistemon citrinus (lemon bottlebrush)
- Cassia artemisioides (feathery cassia)
- Centranthus Tuber (red valerian)
- Cistus (rockrose)
- Convolvulus cneorum (bush morning glory)
- Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass)
- Coreopsis verticillata
- Cotinus coggygria (smoke tree)
- Cytisus and spartium (broom)
- Echium fastuosum(pride of Madeira)
- Eriogonum (buckwheat)
- Fremontodendrom (fremontia)
- Garrya elliptica
- Kniphofia uvaria (red-hot poker)
- Lavandula (lavender)
- Lemonium perezii (sea lavender)
- Nerium oleander (oleander)
- Ochna serrulata (Mickey Mouse plant)
- Pennisetum setaceum (fountain grass)
- Plumbago auriculatta (cape plumbago)
- Poinciana gilliesii (bird of paradise bush)
- Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy)
- Satureja montana (winter savory)
- Teucrium fruticans (bush germander)
- Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree)
- Artemisia (wormwood)
- Atriplex (saltbush)
- Centaurea gymnocarpa
- Dodonaea viscosa (hopseed bush)
- Pittosporum (some species)
- Portulacaria afra (elephant’s food)
- Prunus lyoni, P. ilicifolia, P. caroliniana
- Rhamnus alaternus, R. crocea ilicifolia
- Rhus ovata (sugar bush)
- Senecio cineraria (dusty miller)
- Xylosma congestum
- Acacia (certain species)
- Casaurina (Beefwood)
- Cedrus deodara
- Certonia siliqua (carob)
- Cercis occidentalis (western redbud)
- Cercidium (palo verde)
- Cupressus glabra (Arizona cypress)
- Eriobotrya japonica (loquat)
- Geijera parvifolia
- Hakea (tree types)
- Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon)
- Juglans hindsii (California black walnut)
- Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius (Catalina ironwood)
- Melaleuca linarifolia, M. styphelioides
- Olea europaea (olive)
- Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo verde)
- Pinus (pines)
- Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache)
- Quercus (oaks)
- Robinia (locust)
- Schinus molle (California pepper)
- Sequoiadendron gigantrum (big tree)
- Tamarix apliylla (salt cedar)
- Campsis (trumpet creeper)
- Solanum hartwegii (cup-of-gold vine)
- Solanum jasminoides (potato vine)
- Tecomaria capensis (cape honeysuckle)
- Vitis vinifera (wine grape)
- Baccharis pilularis (dwarf coyote brush)
- Hypericum calycinum (creeping St. Johnswort)
- Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
- Santolina chamaecyparissus
- Juniperus (juniper)
How to Diagnose and Fix Leaking Toilets
A leaking toilet can be annoying and wasteful. To check if your toilet has a leak, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If coloring is seen in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak. To pinpoint the leak, follow these simple steps:
- If the tank is not filling with water, the flush ball is not returning to the seat properly.Solution:
- Check to see if the linkage that connects to the trip lever is hung up.
- If that doesn’t work, then the ball needs to be replaced. A flapper ball can replace a worn flush valve ball.
- If the tank is full of water, and water is flowing into the overflow tube, then the valve is not shutting off correctly.Solution:
- Lift up on the float ball. If the water shuts off, then the ball is not sitting properly in the tank. This could be caused by two things:
- The ball has a leak and is full of water. Replace with another ball or flapper.
- The float ball needs adjusting. Use the screw at the base of the rod to lower the float ball so that the water level is 1/2 to 1 inch below the overflow tube.
- If water does not shut off when you lift up on the float ball, then the valve itself needs to be repaired or replaced. Repair kits and new valves with easy to follow instructions are available at local hardware stores.
- If water is not flowing into the overflow tube, but constantly runs or periodically turns on and off, the flush ball or flapper is not fitting snugly into the flush ball seat. When seats get old they get pitted and allow water to leak past the seal and down the drain. Minerals and other deposits may also build up on the seat, making it rough.Solution:
- If worn, replace the flush ball or flapper.
- If the problem persists, the seat can be cleaned with steel wool, covered with a repair seal or replaced.
Switching to an ultra-low flush toilet is an effective way to make your home or office more water efficient. Ultra-low flush (ULF) toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) rather than 3.5 to 7 gallons of water used by other designs.
That’s why new plumbing codes are requiring ULF toilets to be installed in all new construction, bathroom remodels and additions and toilet replacements.
Questions and Answers about ULFs
- What are ultra-low-flush toilets? ULF toilets look similar to conventional toilets but use a more advanced flushing mechanism. ULFs use only 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), or less, compared to standard toilets that use 5-7 gpf or “water-conserving” models that use 3.5 gpf.
- Are ULFs more dependable than the 3.5-gpf “water-conserving” models? ULF toilets have been completely redesigned to go below 3.5 gpf and work more efficiently.
- How much water can I save by switching to a ULF toilet? A household of four people with a standard five-gallon-per-flush toilet would save approximately 60 gallons per day or about 22,000 gallons per year.
- Do ULF toilets cost more? As with other toilets, ULFs come in a broad range of prices. Many models are available for about $100 and can run as high as $400 or more for the decorator models.
- Are these toilets available in many colors and styles? Yes. ULF toilets can be purchased in the same spectrum of decorator colors as conventional toilets. Various styles are available in plain rim, elongated rim, and high handicapped models.
- Do the ULF toilets install like conventional toilets? Yes. ULF toilets install just like conventional toilets, making them ideal for remodeling and new construction. No special hook-ups or tools are needed.
- Will I ever need to double-flush to wash away waste? Double-flushing is seldom needed. When it is, two flushes use less water than a conventional toilet uses in one flush. Regarding the flow of waste through sewer pipes, ULFs must meet the same stringent drain line carry requirements as conventional toilets. Also, water from showers, bathtubs, and sinks helps keep your sewer pipes open.
- Do these toilets require more cleaning than conventional toilets? No. The flushing action washes the bowl quickly and efficiently. Occasionally, toilets with a small water surface (4-inch by 5-inch versus 8-inch by 9-inch) may require slightly more cleaning than other types.
- How do I know if the toilet I’m buying works the best? New performance standards and testing criteria were released by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in December 1990. All ULF toilets have to meet these standards to be listed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).
How Low-Flush Toilets Work
Ultra-low-flush toilets use an efficient bowl design and increased flushing velocities to remove waste, rather than simply using large amounts of water for flushing.
The Gravity Flush
This technology is also used for conventional toilets. When flushing an ULF toilet, however, the rim wash can come through an open slot rather than through little holes. The bowl may have steep sides and a narrower trap way. These changes to the design of the toilet bowl cause a quick release of water, creating a siphon action to pull the waste out.
The Pressurized Flush
This is a new design developed for 1.6-gpf residential toilets. It uses the house water line pressure to increase the velocity of the water going into the bowl. Within the toilet tank, incoming water presses against a rubber diaphragm that compresses a pocket of air. The water is released by pushing the flush valve.