Q & A Water Conservation & Quality


Although we have had some good rain showers recently, we are not out of the woods yet -- DROUGHT CONDITIONS ARE STILL IN EFFECT. Please continue your efforts to conserve water. The District appreciates everyone's cooperation in preserving our water supplies. Also, don't forget that as you increase your water usage (filling swimming pools, sprinklers, etc.) your water bill increases correspondingly...

Q. "Some people say I should put a brick in my toilet tank to save water. How does that save water, and is it a good idea?"
A. Toilet flushing does use a lot of water, and putting something that takes up space in the tank means that less water will be used each time the tank refills after a flush, but putting a brick in the tank is NOT a good idea. A brick tends to crumble and might damage the toilet's flushing mechanism. A glass jar, a plastic bag, or a jug filled with water will work, however. Because some toilets require a certain volume of water to work right, be sure to test the toilet to make sure it's still flushing well after any changes. (NOTE: Never use your toilet as a trash can. Using several gallons of water to get rid of a tissue or a cigarette is very wasteful.) Also remember that toilet tanks can leak. To check, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank, wait about fifteen minutes, and look in the bowl. If the food coloring shows up there, the tank is leaking and should be fixed. Toilets should be checked for leaks every year.

Q. Is it a good idea to control the flow of water from my shower head...and how do I measure how fast the shower is using water?
A. You need two things: a bucket and a watch that can time seconds. The bucket needs to have a one-gallon mark on it. If it doesn't, add a gallon of water and mark the level. Set the shower flow just as you would when showering. Put the empty bucket under the showerhead to catch all the water and hold it there for twenty-four seconds (it may be easier to have someone else hold the bucket for you). The bucket will weigh eight to ten pounds at the end of this time, so be prepared. If the water is near the one-gallon mark, your showerhead is flowing at the recommended amount. If the level is way over the one-gallon mark, you should consider a new low-flow showerhead (flow restrictors often produce a weak spray) to conserve water. The National Energy Act of 1992 requires low-flow showerheads in any new construction and replacements.

Q. I tend to leave the water running while I'm brushing my teeth. Does this habit waste much water?
A. Leaving the water running is a bad habit; about five to six gallons of water go down the drain needlessly every time you brush. Turing off the water when you are not using it will save water and save money, too. Another way people unthinkingly waste water is while they are waiting for the hot water to come to a shower, tub or sink. Catching this water to use for plant watering is a good conservation tip.

Q. I've worked so hard to get my yard looking good. How should I water my lawn to avoid wasting water?
A. Water your lawn for long periods a couple of times each week, rather than every day. This allows deep penetration of the water. An inch a week is a good rule of thumb, but this varies for different grasses and shrubs. Check with your local garden store. If you want to find out exactly how long to water, put some large jars or cans around your lawn and see how long you have to run the sprinkler to fill the jars with the right amount of water.
Water early in the morning to avoid excessive evaporation; it is usually less windy then, too, and the water pressure is usually higher. Night watering may promote lawn disease. Use a sprinkler that makes large drops, because small drops evaporate faster. Watering your lawn with a hand-held hose is a waste of both your time and your water, although it might be all right for a small garden. Also, try to avoid watering paved areas, and don't use your hose to wash sidewalks or driveways.

Q. My water faucet drips a little; should I bother to fix it?
A. Yes. Drips waste a precious product, and this waste should be stopped, even though the dripping water may not register on your water meter. To find out how much water you're wasting, put an eight-ounce measuring cup under the drip and find out how many minutes it takes to fill up. Divide the filling time into ninety (ninety + minutes to fill) to discover the gallons of water wasted each day. For example, if you have a faucet that drips sixty times a minute (once each second), this adds up to over three gallons each day, or 1,225 gallons each year -- and that's enough to fill more than twenty-two 55-gallon drums, just from one dripping faucet! This leak would fill the eight-ounce cup in less than thirty minutes.

Q How is my water tested and who tests it?
A. Federal regulations state that all water suppliers must test the treated water for microbes and chemicals (a list of about ninety in the U.S.) a specified number of times each year. The tests for microbes are done most often; the frequency varies depending on the population served by a water supplier. Federal regulations also state that these tests must be conducted in federally certified laboratories using federally approved methods, some of which are quite complex.

Q. Can I test my water at home?
A. Not in a meaningful way. Simple kits are available to test for some chemicals such as chlorine, calcium and lead but a thorough analysis is not possible with these kits. In some cities with older water delivery systems, such as New York, water suppliers have begun offering free tests for lead in water. If you are interested, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can provide a list of State Certification Officers for Drinking Water Laboratories which includes information about where to find testing laboratories in each state.