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Posts Tagged ‘leak repair’

by Charlene Burgi

Leaking sprinkler head

Sprinkler in need of repair

Have you ever been in a hurry and patched something together just to make it work? The quick fix may be intended to be temporary, but it is soon forgotten because the “band-aid” is still holding—by the skin of its teeth!

Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to forget the patch and be lulled by the warm sun that urges us to embrace a day of fun. After all, the electrical tape is still (almost) stopping the leaking hose. The valve can still work if it is turned on manually. And the epoxy putty seems to be doing the job on that P-trap under the sink. It is so easy to miss the magic words in the directions that state it is a temporary fix. And these fixes are just that—temporary.

I have learned over the years that temporary fixes can be costly! A few years ago, someone used an epoxy “band-aid” on a pipe under my kitchen sink. I had no idea it was there when I bought the house. And the product was as good as its word. Shortly after new hardwood floors were installed in the kitchen, the epoxy putty revealed its existence and the limits of its longevity. The slow leak seeped under the sink cabinet and made its way under the beautiful hardwood floors. The wood swelled ever so slightly in the form of a slight ridge. Then the buckling began. The insurance company wouldn’t cover the loss since the leak had existed for some time—albeit undetected! Fortunately, the hardwood floor person I use is a true craftsman and was able to repair the damage in short order, and I learned to install plastic trays under my sinks as added insurance!

Drip irrigation system leak flooding plants

Drip irrigation system leak

I often wonder how we get sidetracked or put leaks or breaks on hold. I remember people calling the water district to say their toilets flushed all by themselves. Did they know their toilet was leaking so severely that the water tank level needed to replenish itself and so flushed automatically to refill? Or does anyone realize they are robbing their plants of water if the water pressure is so high on their irrigation system that the water droplets atomize into the atmosphere before ever making it to the ground? That mist you see with high water pressure isn’t helping the root system that feeds your plants. A broken irrigation line can cause another serious hit to the pocketbook if it is flooding one area of the garden while failing to deliver water to the plants in another. In addition to water lost, the parched plants may be lost, too.

Another temporary fix is replacing a missing sprinkler head with the wrong size and type nozzle. Why would that matter? The gusher stopped, didn’t it? Let’s take a closer look at this band-aid. Some nozzles are rotors, some spray, and some are impacts—and they all perform differently. In addition, different irrigation manufacturers sell spray nozzles that provide different gallons per minute and throw water different distances. To keep things simple, let’s assume the spray nozzles installed in your garden provide three gallons of water per minute per nozzle. And let’s say all the nozzles on the valve are throwing the irrigation water 15 feet in order to attain head-to-head coverage for good distribution uniformity. (Distribution uniformity is applying water evenly to an area so it comes down like rain and the entire area receives an equal depth of water.) What would happen if the nozzle installed for a temporary fix only produced one gallon of water per minute? Or the temporary nozzle only threw out enough water to cover eight feet instead of 15 feet? It wouldn’t take long for a dry spot to develop while the warm sunny days found you away, playing in the sun.

My husband Jack has a motto that is good to live by: Do it once, do it right. It will save you time and money in a long run. If you are not certain how to “do it right,” hire a licensed plumber for indoor water issues or a licensed landscape contractor that specializes in irrigation. Then you can relax while taking in this beautiful weather!

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by Charlene Burgi

It seems that the phrase “March Madness” is heard throughout the mass media but never in regard to gardening!

To me, March Madness in the garden represents the desire to do something that isn’t quite right just for the sake of getting it done. It is the madness of taking shortcuts that lead to potential long-run problems.

These shortcuts find their way into the scheme of things primarily during the month of March, since this is the month many of us tend to emerge from hibernation. For instance, earlier this month I was going through the stacks of seeds collected over the years. I noticed one seed packet dated back to 2007. (If anyone hosts a show called “Seed Hoarders,” I would be a great candidate.) I had an empty seed flat and thought I had nothing to lose but to scatter the seeds in the planting mix. I didn’t label the flat thinking the seeds were too old to germinate. Was I wrong! I have a bumper crop of something coming up but now fail to remember what I planted! These little mystery plants will keep me guessing for some time; I don‘t know if they are shade- or sun-lovers, vegetable or flower, or even what hydrozone to plant them in. What I do know is this plant has a very long shelf life and I need to make labels instead of trusting my memory!

Fix a Leak Week

What better time to check for irrigation and other leaks?

Shortcuts also cost more money and time than if the job is done correctly in the first place. And truthfully, some garden chores are far more exciting than others. Those dreaded chores often result in neglect. One area frequently overlooked is our irrigation systems. Before we do anything, we need to turn on the irrigation system to check for leaks, breaks, popped emitters, misdirected nozzles, etc. (National Fix-a-Leak Week is a good time to do this.) Our instinct is to think it worked fine last year. We convince ourselves it is okay to postpone that check until after we plant, yet this key step is often forgotten. Uninspected irrigation components lose water to sidewalks, streets, or the neighbor’s yard. Water may pool around the base of the spray head due to bad seals around the sprinkler. Controllers may have lost connection with the valves and fail to turn on the system. Worse yet, drip systems could resemble fountains in Rome as the water arches far above the intended planting area. This aquatic event is missed entirely as we program the irrigation system to go on while we are still slumbering peacefully.

There is another irrigation shortcut that can cause trouble. A plant is innocently added on to an existing hydrozone station. The hydraulics to this station could already be straining to give ample coverage to the existing plantings, but why not just add on one more head to water this new plant along with the others? After all, the plants have the same exposure and water needs. But is there enough water available on that station? A well-designed irrigation system considers the friction loss of water in the pipe, the water pressure available, and the gallons of water required to water the area. The person designing the system researches the number and type of sprinklers best suited for that station. One sprinkler added after-the-fact to that design could leave the coverage lacking. A few hot days this summer will reveal the deadly results of a moment’s madness in March.

During an irrigation system check, one can experience another moment of madness when discovering a missing sprinkler head. The tendency is to grab whatever nozzle might be available. The outcome is seen when a sprinkler nozzle should reach six feet for head-to-head coverage, yet someone uses a spray head that reaches 15 feet. Your neighbor may thank you for watering his plants if the nozzle isn’t corrected! Or, the only sprinkler type available at the moment might be an impact head added to a system using spray heads or rotors. Taking this shortcut—instead of taking the time to run down to the local irrigation supply house—can end up flooding one area of your garden while leaving the other area parched. The golden rule here is do not mix and match your irrigation types on one station. Use the same type of nozzles throughout the system. Even spray heads from different companies will not match as they can emit various gallons per minute.

Yes, March Madness here in Lassen comes with the desire to plant my vegetable garden when the temperatures are still dropping into the teens at night. Enjoy the long growing season in Marin—just be wary of the shortcuts.

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Fix a Leak Weekby Shasta Phillips

Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons annually nationwide. That’s enough water to fill 100 million swimming pools. It’s enough to submerge Marin County under 6 feet of water. It is enough water to give 100 billion poodles a much-needed bath. The point is, it is a lot of water.

I know what you’re thinking: “Enough with the fancy statistics, Shasta. Tell me what I can do to help stop leaks!” Well, MMWD has provided a handy Do-It-Yourself Survey to help you find leaks on your property. Following the simple step-by-step instructions in the guide may help you discover leaks that are wasting not only our precious resource, but also your hard-earned dollars.

“Do-it-yourself? No thanks!” Okay, okay. For those of you who would like help, invite one of our well-mannered conservation experts to your property to help check for leaks and identify other ways to reduce your water use. Learn more on our website, then call 415-945-1523 to schedule your free appointment.

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Saving water is always important but especially during a drought like we’re having right now. There are lots of things you can do at home and at school to save water. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Be a leak detective: Check faucets and showers for drips—one drip per second adds up to eight gallons of water every day. Remember to check outdoor faucets and hoses, too.
  • A leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons a day! Ask your parents to help you test your toilets for leaks by placing a few drops of food coloring or a dye tablet in the tank and waiting about 15 minutes. If the color shows up in the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak that needs to be repaired.
  • Don’t use your toilet as a waste basket. Put facial tissues in the trash. Don’t flush spiders and other creepy-crawlies—capture them in a cup and put them outside.
  • Turn off the tap while you brush—you'll save about eight gallons every day!

    Turn off the tap while you brush—you’ll save about eight gallons every day!

    Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or lathering your hands. This is an easy way to save eight gallons or more every day.

  • Take showers instead of baths. Try timing your shower, then challenge yourself to shorten your shower by two minutes. You’ll save about five gallons!
  • Try this experiment to see how water-efficient your showerhead is. If you discover that you need a new showerhead, MMWD has free replacements available.
  • Put a bucket in the shower while you’re waiting for the water to warm up. Use the water you collect to flush the toilet by pouring the bucket into the toilet bowl. Or, use this water to help your parents water thirsty house or garden plants.
  • Designate a drinking glass for each member of the family and reuse your glass throughout the day. You’ll cut down on the number of glasses that need washing.
  • If washing dishes is one of your chores, don’t rinse dishes under a running tap. Instead, fill a pan with water. Better yet, just scrape the dishes into the trash or compost and put them in the dishwasher. Remember to run the dishwasher only when full.
  • If your clothes aren’t very dirty, re-wear them before tossing them in the laundry hamper.
  • Wash your pet outside in an area of the yard that needs watering.
  • Remind your friends, classmates, and parents to conserve water, too!

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by Christina Mountanos

It’s both remarkable and worrisome that the local forecast is still filled to the brim with sunshine. With 2013 earning the title of driest year in MMWD’s recorded history, and no end in sight, everyone I know is at least a little on-edge. Veterans of the 1976-77 drought have been busy tightening their belts, and our phones have been abuzz with customers expressing their concerns. One thing’s for sure, the time for everyone to do their part is now! Where can you begin? If you’re on a limited budget, a new homeowner, or just don’t know where to start, the following list can help! Check out some of the most popular, and effective, ways to save:

1. Check for leaks and repair them immediately. One in three of our customers have leaks and don’t even realize it. Don’t become part of the statistic! Check your home for leaky toilets and dripping fixtures. Many repairs are simple, inexpensive, and can reduce your indoor water usage by nearly 15 percent. Need some guidance? Read our fun, informative instructions on “How to Be a Leak Detective” to get started.

2. Turn off your automatic sprinkler system and water plants only as needed. Switching your irrigation timer to the “off” position is an easy, no-cost way to save water. Rest assured that despite the dry weather conditions, plants need about 80 percent less water this time of year than they do in the summer months. Keep an eye on your garden and only water periodically, if plants are showing signs of stress. Once spring rolls around, let us help you decide when it’s right to turn things back on. Sign up for our online Weekly Watering Schedule and receive weekly e-mails with guidelines on how much to water.

3. Check your water pressure and install pressure-compensating faucet aerators and showerheads. High water pressure in your home can cause faucets and showerheads to use more water, so it’s important to know what you have. Sixty pounds per square inches is just right for most homes, but check with a plumber to be sure. Also consider installing pressure-compensating showerheads and faucet aerators. Installing a two-gallon-per-minute showerhead can save up to 2,900 gallons annually. Putting in new aerators on your bathroom and kitchen faucets can save 700 gallons more.

4. Check your water meter. Take charge of your water usage by learning to read your meter and doing some simple math. It’s just as easy as reading the odometer in your car and only takes a few minutes. Taking weekly readings will help you spot any unusual usage, catch leaks, and avoid surprises on your bill. Use the handy form we have available online to record your readings or download a smart-phone application to store it for you!

5. Participate in MMWD’s free conservation programs. Very few things in this world are free. Fortunately, one thing you can still get is a water use survey with one of our conservation specialists. Let us help you identify ways to save water in your home (indoors and out) and provide you with complimentary showerheads and aerators (as needed, of course). Call our Conservation Assistance Program hotline at (415) 945-1523 to set up an appointment.

6. Install high-efficiency WaterSense-labeled toilets. Toilets are responsible for nearly 30 percent of our indoor water usage. That’s why, time-and-time-again, replacing old, inefficient models tops the list of ways to save. Purchase a new high-efficiency toilet (HET) and save 20-60 percent per flush, for a significant reduction of 13,000 gallons annually. Consider dual-flush to further your savings, check map-testing.com to get your hands on cold, hard facts about performance, and go to our website for rebate information on qualifying models so you can get paid to save! Toilets save water year-round, and you’ll find them in price ranges made for everyone.

7. Install a high-efficiency clothes washer. Second only to toilets are the workhorses we call clothes washers. You can put your old 30-40 gallon clunker to shame by purchasing a new high-efficiency model that uses 18 gallons or less. Take advantage of our current rebate program to save water, energy, and money.

8. Install a WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controller. Purchase a new “smart” controller and never forget to reduce your watering schedule again! The EPA estimates these controllers—which take their cues from real-time weather conditions—can save the average family 8,800 gallons annually. Schedule a pre-inspection with one of our conservation specialists, then take advantage of MMWD’s rebate for $20 per active station. Smart controllers are made by a variety of manufacturers and, like toilets, are available in a range of prices.

9. Add compost and mulch. Amend, amend, amend your soil. Gets your hands on some organic compost, or make your own! The benefits are overwhelming. Feeding your soil with compost nourishes plants, helps with aeration, resolves compaction issues, prevents runoff, and helps retain moisture. Since plants residing in amended soils fare better in drought conditions, twice a year spread two to four inches of compost over the top or your soil, then dig it into the top six to 12 inches. Follow-up with two to four inches of mulch and get ready to help make whatever moisture we receive this rainy season last!

10. Make your garden water-smart. Upgrade your irrigation system by converting some of your spray systems to drip irrigation. Or, improve the efficiency of your current sprinklers by changing them to high-efficiency rotor-type nozzles. Rotors can fit into existing spray bodies and use one-third less water. By putting out water in small, finger-like streams, they water slowly, more evenly, and reduce water loss due to evaporation and runoff. While you’re at it, consider removing some of your turf grass. A small-sized area of turf, with a spray system operating at ten gallons per minute, can easily use 100 gallons per day, 300 per week, and 15,600 annually! Replacing your lawn with native, low-water use plants is a great way to conserve water and save money. Check out the links on our “Water-Wise Plants” page to find some gorgeous inspirations.

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by Charlene Burgi

The saying “Timing is everything” couldn’t hold truer than at this moment regarding water conservation. Incoming news from Marin is giving us time to plan.

A few days before Christmas an email came to my inbox stating that the MMWD Board of Directors passed a resolution calling on customers to conserve water due to the record-breaking low rainfall we have experienced in the past year.

To further drive this point home, Wendy, a dear friend from the Water Conservation Department, shared Christmas with us. Upon her arrival, she showed us the Marin IJ, which carried a front page story about the extremely dry conditions.

The article reported statistics that shocked me. I read that less than 11 inches of rain fell in Marin in 2013. That is eight fewer inches than the recorded low from 1929—less on a calendar year basis than the debilitating drought we remember so well in the ‘70s!

This news gave me pause for thought. We have time to cinch our belts now and check our conservation practices at home as well as at work. Good times often make us more lax in our practices and habits—conserving water is no exception! Perhaps it is time to reassess our daily routine.

There is time right now to check for dripping faucets that may have been placed on a back burner. Repair them with proper washers or replace the culprit if it is beyond repair. Did a water survey reveal a leaking toilet that needs a flapper replacement? Did that chore get put off until the proverbial tomorrow? Has the irrigation controller been upgraded to a smart controller, or is it still programmed by the “by guess, by golly” method? Is the soil amended so irrigation water soaks into the root zone, or does the heavy clay cause the water to run off? Are the planting beds heavily mulched to inhibit evaporation? Drip systems need to be checked for missing emitters, spray heads require visual analysis to determine if the spray is targeting the intended area and didn’t vibrate into the street or sidewalk.

Smart irrigation controllers

MMWD is offering rebates on smart irrigation controllers and more. Visit marinwater.org/rebates for details. (Photo by Richard Wheeler)

The water district can help you with your conservation efforts in several ways. If you have never had a water survey, call to have one of MMWD’s specialists visit your home, check for leaks and offer suggestions for how to conserve. While there, the specialist can talk to you about rebate programs that could save you money toward the purchase of a new high-efficiency toilet (or two), washing machine and smart controller.

Timing is everything. The water we save right now means that much more water in our reservoirs for that much longer. New ideas, new habits and renewed practices put into action now also will give time for a seamless transition if the dry weather persists and we must move from voluntary to mandatory use reduction.

And what better time to start or renew good practices! We are always thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Let conservation be at the top of your list.

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by Dan Carney

Water has a knack for quietly leaking 24-hours-a-day out of even the smallest cracks and crevices. In fact, it’s so good at finding ways to hide that one-third of all properties in Marin have water leaks. MMWD staff perform thousands of free Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) surveys at homes and businesses every year and discover leaking toilets, sprinkler lines and valves that sometimes account for 25 percent or more of the water used at the site—that’s a lot of wasted water and money!

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveIf you think it’s time for a free CAP survey to check for leaks, give us a call on the CAP hotline at 945-1523 and we’ll be glad to set up an appointment and meet with you at your property. As an extra bonus, MMWD has rebate dollars available for customers to replace leaky old toilets, water-guzzling clothes washers and out-of-control irrigation controllers. Visit the rebate website at marinwater.org/rebates or give conservation staff a call at 945-1527. Rebate dollars are limited, so get yours today!

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