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Anatomy of Water Waste
The term “water waste” could have various definitions depending upon the context and people interpreting it’s meaning. Cleaning out a pool or kids playing in the sprinklers could be considered water waste to one person but normal to another.
For our purposes as water utility customers of the City of Merced, water waste could be described as the use of water outside of our ordinance guidelines. Watering without a useful purpose is the broad phrase meaning wasteful. In the City of Merced we strive to educate our customers about our water conservation guidelines and processes.
Some of you may have gotten a courtesy letter explaining that your yard was observed using water outside of the days and/or times allowed by our ordinance. The courtesy letter is just that, a courtesy to you, assuming that you don’t know that there is an ordinance on days and times to water. The letter explains what was witnessed and when, as well as letting you know what is allowed. If we’ve already sent you a courtesy letter and again we notice water being used outside of the proper days and times and within 12 months of the letter being sent, then the notice that we send is called a Cease and Desist notice. It’s more official looking and resembles a ticket; it is NOT a fine, but on the back side of the C&D notice it explains the schedule of fines should the wasteful practice continue. Then if the water waste continues the fines are $50, $75, and $150. At that point, we could also install a meter at the owners’ expense if there is no meter already on the property.
This all may sound like doom and gloom; but I need to tell you that the courtesy letters and C&D notices are making a huge difference. Those notices serve to educate and don’t assume that people are just wasting. We send out quite a few notices, over 250 in June. And those notices are making a difference. Over the past six months, we’ve only had two incidences which resulted in a customer getting fined. That is excellent news! Our purpose is not to fine, but to educate so that we can save water. The education seems to be paying off. You are doing a great job as our water customers and consumers of our precious resource. Keep it up!
How to Read Your Meter
Your water meter can tell you a lot of useful information. You can use your meter to monitor your water use and to check for leaks. With the hard freeze that we’ve just experienced in Merced, it’s a good idea to check around your property for any cracked pipes and leaky sprinklers.
First locate your water meter, which should be in the front yard, either in the grass or side walk. The lid will say WATER on it and it will have a notch where you can insert a long screw driver to pop the lid up. Be careful when removing and replacing the lid, you don’t want to drop the lid on your foot or on the top of the meter! The top of your meter will look like the photo.
Each full turn of the red dial is 1 cubic foot which is equal to 7.48 gallons. In the City of Merced, your base water rate includes 30 hcf (hundred cubic feet) or 22,400 gallons of water per month. You can use more that 30 hcf of water, but it will cause your bill to increase. The little blue dial is a low flow indicator and will move even when you have a small leak. If all water inside and outside of your house is turned off completely and you check your meter, it should be perfectly still; unless you have a leak, then you will see the little blue dial moving.
The water odometer, records water use like a car odometer will record miles. The odometer records water use in cubic feet. The digits from the right represent 1 cubic foot, 10 cubic feet, and 100 cubic feet respectfully. You can tell how much water is being used if you write down your meter odometer’s full number, then come back the next week or month later and record that number. Subtract the first number recorded from the most recent and that will tell you how many cubic feet have been used during that time frame. You can convert it to gallons by multiplying that number by 7.48; then you will know how many gallons that you used during that time frame. You can divide that number by the amount of days in between your recordings to find out an average of how many gallons per day you are using. And if you find that you have a leak, fix it right away. Leaking pipes are like money down the drain and simply a waste of our precious resource.
For more information on how to read your water meter, you can contact me at the Public Works department, 385-6800.
Green Resolution Time! By Leah Brown, Water Conservation Specialist
It’s 2013 and time for some Green Resolutions. Our planet isn’t getting any younger or less polluted for that matter. Our global footprint is getting bigger and as our population increases so does our use of natural resources. Let’s all vow to be better recyclers and to be better stewards of our water.
I find that my seven year old son is very motivated by spare change so he has become our #1 recycler of bottles and cans at home. We go to a local recycler once a month and turn in all our bottles and cans; he does the work by sorting the items and loading up the car and I drive us there. He gets the money and we both get the satisfaction of keeping those plastics and metals out of the garbage stream. And all the other paper, cardboard, plastic bottles & jugs, and non-crv metal cans go in the blue can.
We also try very hard to watch our water usage. My boys are being brought up to know that you keep the water off when you brush your teeth and tubs do not have to be full to take a bath. You’d be surprised by how much easier it is for our kids to be green minded than changing the habits of adults. But you can teach an old horse a new trick, we adults can be green, it just takes a bit more well thought out effort. We have to set our minds to it and resolve to do better.
What better time for resolutions than in January. So let’s all resolve to be greener by recycling wisely, watering less, turning the water off when shaving or brushing teeth, re-using water if possible, and being more thoughtful of our water use in general.
Resolve to be green in 2013!
Water in Review
As 2012 draws to a close, I have to reflect on the past year’s water activities around the City. The City’s water division pumped approximately 8.8 billion gallons of water; that’s equal to about 24 million gallons per day! We have made significant progress in educating the public about water conservation and greener living through articles like these, as well as, social media, and direct letters to those not aware of the conservation ordinance. I’ve attended community organization meetings like the Chamber of Commerce’s Green Team, Rotary, Master Gardeners, AARP, and various classrooms and auditoriums at our local schools. I’ve met many of you at the Thursday night Market on Main, and through our Public Works booth at the Merced County Fair. It’s been a great year and I’ve noticed significantly less water waste around our community.
And now the city has a new water rate structure in place to encourage water conservation and sustain the water needs in Merced for the next five years. If you are on a meter your rates will come down a bit starting in 2013. For those still receiving unlimited water on a flat rate, we will be working on funding for your conversion to water meters. Community water leaders are meeting regularly to work on an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, to help fund projects and make sure the Merced Region has a sustainable water plan for the future.
As the year draws to a close, I encourage you to continue to think about water conservation and greener living practices. Now that we’ve survived 12/21/12, (maybe the Mayan’s ran out of room!), we need to plan for the future and not be wasteful today so that we can sustain tomorrow.
For questions on water conservation, you can reach the Water Conservation Specialist, Leah Brown, at the Public Works office at 385-6800. Happy New Year Merced!
Hello City of Merced!!
Fall is fast approaching. That means leaves will be falling and stormy weather is upon us. Merced City’s Freddy Fin and the Environmental Control Division would like to remind you “Only rain down the drain!” Did you know that everything that goes down the storm drain flows straight to our creeks and rivers, untreated? That means the fish, whom rely on clean water to live in, are taking in a dose of our daily lives. Let’s work together to prevent pollution in our storm drains by taking our oil and chemicals to the proper disposal sites (i.e. landfill), and picking up debris such as leaves and trash before it goes down the storm drain. This will help keep our waterways cleaner for aquatic life and provide a greener, cleaner world for us!! Remember, “Only Rain down the drain”.
By The City of Merced Environmental Control Division
Water Pet-Peeves - By Leah Brown, Water Conservation Specialist
I talk a lot about pet-peeves here on the Green Tips, but these pet-peeves are also ordinances and I hope they will become your pet-peeves too. With the scarcity of water resources in California and the current drought situation, we really have to change our habits so that we irrigate our landscaping in the most efficient manner.
Pet-peeve, #1 is run-off. Run-off is wasteful and benefits no one, least of all the fish in the creeks where the run-off ends up.
Pet-peeve, #2 is mid-day watering. As the days heat up, it becomes more evident why we are not supposed to water in the middle of the day. This is because it’s the hottest part of the day. Instead of soaking into the ground and helping, mid-day watering is mostly evaporated. Evaporating the water you apply is like run-off, it serves no purpose, and is a waste of water and your dollars. Therefore, we have a city ordinance that there is no watering allowed City-wide after 11 a.m. and before 7 p.m.
When I think of it, my pet-peeves about water waste aren’t just city ordinances that need to be followed, but they are designed to protect our precious resource and save you money! And who doesn’t need to keep a close eye on their pocketbooks? For more tips on water conservation, contact me at the Public Works – Water division at 385-6800 or check us out on Facebook.
The City of Merced reminds you to help conserve water. Use a spray nozzle with a shut off valve to wash your car. Plant low irrigation vegetation and check your timers to ensure that you are following the odd/even schedule. Addresses ending in an odd number can water on Sundays, Wednesday, and Fridays. Addresses ending in an even number can water on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Water only in the morning or in the evening; no mid-day watering between 11 AM and 7 PM. For more information call, 385-6800, for the City of Merced Public Works Department.