Posts Tagged ‘toilets’

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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Get paid to save with rebates from MMWD! We’re pleased to offer rebates on high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency clothes washers and smart irrigation controllers. Find details at marinwater.org/rebates.

Thanks to students Dean Mai, David Lau Lui and Nikole Rivera of Ex’pression College for Digital Arts who produced this video.

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by Robin McKillop

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveAfter a four-year hiatus, we’re pleased to announce rebates are back! This is your chance to save water, energy and money by installing qualifying high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers and smart irrigation controllers. Purchases must be made on or after September 1, 2013, to qualify. Visit us online at marinwater.org/rebates for complete program information, including qualifying product lists and application materials.

Rebates up to $100 per qualifying toilet

High-efficiency toilets (HETs) are designed to use less than 1.3 gallons per flush while retaining superior flushing performance. The models that qualify for a rebate from MMWD have passed rigorous testing standards to achieve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label. Since toilets are the single biggest water-users inside your home, replacing an older one with a new high-efficiency model is an easy way to trim your water bill. To apply for a high-efficiency toilet rebate, simply review the program terms and conditions listed on the application form. Then purchase a qualifying toilet and submit your completed application with your original receipt.

Rebates up to $50 for qualifying clothes washers

High-efficiency clothes washers exceed federal efficiency standards. Washers that qualify for a rebate from MMWD are designed to use 12 gallons of water per load, or less. That’s less than half the water (and energy) needed by a washer that simply meets today’s federal efficiency standards. If you do a lot of laundry in your household, the water and energy savings can really pile up. To apply for a high-efficiency clothes washer rebate, simply review the program terms and conditions listed on the application form. Then purchase a qualifying clothes washer and submit your completed application with your original receipt.

Rebates up to $20 per residential valve and $30 per commercial valve for qualifying smart irrigation controllers

Smart irrigation controllers are designed to self-adjust based on real-time weather and site conditions like rainfall, wind, temperature, humidity, solar radiation and soil type. Smart irrigation controllers tailor watering schedules to actual site conditions, minimizing water waste and conserving water. While it’s tempting to fall into a “set it and forget it” approach, it’s important to remember that smart irrigation controllers are part of an irrigation system. They can perform as intended only if the system is properly designed, installed and maintained, and if the controller is installed, programmed and maintained properly.

To apply for a smart irrigation controller rebate, contact MMWD’s Water Conservation Department at (415) 945-1527 to schedule a water conservation site survey, before purchasing your new controller and after reviewing program terms and conditions. The water conservation survey will help you identify ways to conserve water at your property, both indoors and out, and will take about 60 to 90 minutes to complete. During the survey you will receive additional information about smart irrigation controllers to help you decide if they are a good match for you, as well as an application form. After you purchase your qualifying smart irrigation controller, submit your completed application with your original receipt. Rebate amounts are based on the number of active irrigation stations as determined during the survey.

Funding for these rebates comes from the Marin Municipal Water District and the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006, administered by State of California, Department of Water Resources.

Bay Area water agencies are coordinating to provide this rebate program, funded in part under a regional grant to Bay Area Clean Water Agencies under the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006, administered by State of California, Department of Water Resources.

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by Charlene Burgi

Unless there is a vegetable garden requiring our daily attention, August always seems like the month when we gardeners can kick back and relax. September, on the other hand, is the magic month for gardening. It is the time to shop for the best selection of bulbs to add sparks of color in the spring. It is also the time for lawns to be installed, as well as shrubs and trees to be planted to fill in those bare spots, to help establish their root systems before winter is upon us.

September can be a tricky month for watering. The evenings typically become cooler and daylight hours are noticeably shorter, giving our plants a respite from long, hot summer days. Yet, we also can experience warm, sunny days that prompt us to crank the water onto our gardens, forgetting that our plants do not require as much water now as they did in June and July. Ah, for the love of a smart irrigation controller that calculates exactly what our plants need at this moment based on evapotranspiration and provides just the right amount of irrigation!

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveSo the timing couldn’t be better for MMWD’s new rebate programs, which launched September 1. Now you can “get paid to save” with rebates on select water-saving toilets, clothes washers and smart irrigation controllers. Replacing high-water-use toilets and old washing machines are straightforward for saving money and water. The installations of these water-savers are relatively simple. Smart controllers are a bit more complicated. A smart controller is only as smart as the design of an irrigation system. Topography, soil type, sun exposure and the variety of sprinklers in your system all affect the performance you can expect from the smart controller. Before considering a smart controller, you’ll want to make sure your irrigation system is operating efficiently.

To apply for a smart controller rebate, call MMWD at (415) 945-1527 to schedule a free water conservation survey at your property before purchasing your controller. This visit is a win-win for you and your garden. One of MMWD’s experts will help you identify ways to save water both outdoors and in, and will provide you with additional information about smart controllers to help you decide if the technology is a good match for you. At the conclusion of the survey, our expert will provide you with a Smart Controller Rebate Application form and let you know how much of a rebate you may qualify for. (Rebates are up to $20 per active residential valve station or $30 for commercial.)

You may want to hire a professional to install and fine-tune your smart controller. But once it is up and running, your new smart controller will automatically adjust the run times as the weather changes, freeing up your time to do as you please. And with a smart controller programmed for your specific garden, your plants will be happy, too!

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by Charlene Burgi

20 Gallon Challenge logoIt seems water districts in Marin and Sonoma have thrown down the gauntlet to any knight in shining armor willing to pick up the challenge of attempting to save 20 gallons of water a day.

In the days of knights and damsels in distress, a knight would throw down his glove of chainmail to challenge another to run a course or path. The opponent would accept the challenge by picking up the glove and running the course while getting whacked by various objects along the way in order to show just how fearless he was.

While the water districts’ challenge doesn’t involve getting hit by objects, it still requires a plan to help you successfully navigate the course to water savings. The first rule of thumb for me when facing a challenge is to seek out information. The 20 Gallon Challenge website has water conservation ideas to get you started. If you’re looking for more, websites like h2ouse.org and home-water-works.org provide oodles of information on how to save water. MMWD’s website has step-by-step instructions on how to test for leaky toilets, sheet mulch and oh-so-much more.

Next, I talk to friends, family or anyone I admire for their ability to meet the challenge at hand. When I told Jack about this 20 Gallon Challenge, he quickly came back with two very easy answers:

  • Cut two minutes off each station of the irrigation controller. Each station could equate to 20 gallons or more per minute, depending on the type of nozzle and number of sprinklers on each valve. You can do the math for your own yard. First check what type of nozzle you are using, then multiply the nozzle’s flow rate times the number of nozzles on the station to come up with total gallons of water used per minute, per station.
  • Hose end nozzle

    Hose-end nozzle

    Place hose-end nozzles on each hose to shut off the water automatically when you release the handle. It is amazing how much water you can lose walking back to the faucet if you are hand watering your plants.

It also helps me to visualize the path and obstacles I face before entering into the fray. What does the challenge look like? Just how much water is 20 gallons? A half a bathtub is a good guess. Twenty gallons can run down the drain in a ten-minute shower if you are using a showerhead emitting two gallons of water a minute. Some of you might be using showerheads releasing over five gallons per minute. We had an ancient toilet at our cabin in Lake County that used five gallons for each flush, compared to high-efficiency toilet that uses less than 1.3 gallons. We decided that was a lot of wasted water and installed a new toilet. The old toilet will make an excellent flower planter for the funky landscape! Do you have a potential planter waiting to be installed in the garden instead of being hooked into your household plumbing? Four flushes a day on that old cabin toilet used 20 gallons of water!

Once I talk to experts and visualize what I am facing, I need to weigh the risk or sacrifice and ask if I am willing to put myself on the path toward potential reward. In the case of the 20 Gallon Challenge, I may need to sacrifice some time to turn back the controller two minutes per station, or run to the store to purchase a new showerhead. You may need to spend a few minutes to call and schedule a free water audit, or sacrifice some money in the short-term to fix a leak and gain long-term savings on your water bill.

Without a doubt, with challenges come risks. With challenges also come rewards. The reward for this challenge is in all the water saved. We are facing a very dry year and conserving water now will help keep water in our reservoirs in case of another dry year. The reward is also the money you will save on your water bill and the potential of winning some awesome prizes.

With that, I am throwing down the gauntlet. Are you willing to pick up the glove?

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by Charlene Burgi

This week a friend sent an email containing a test that challenged the reader’s knowledge of science. I dropped all that I was doing and quizzed myself before sending it on to my daughter, son and Jack with my results. The gauntlet was officially thrown down and the game was on!

It seems the family loves these challenges, as we all get caught up in self-testing. It made me wonder if you, too, enjoy seeing just how much you know? Are you in? Okay, I am throwing down the gauntlet! Answers will be found at the end of the blog. No fair checking our website or internet for answers first!

1. How many water supply reservoirs does MMWD maintain on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed and in West Marin? Extra points if you can name them all.
a. 3
b. 7
c. 12
d. None of the above

2. Which sprinkler heads are most efficient on a slope?
a. Impact heads
b. MP Rotators
c. Spray heads
d. Rotors

3. It is acceptable to mix various types of sprinkler heads on the same valve.
a. True
b. False

4. It is best to use pressure-compensating emitters on a slope.
a. True
b. False

5. As a whole, we use more water:
a. Washing clothes
b. Flushing toilets
c. Watering lawns
d. Taking showers

6. Clay soil doesn’t have any nutritional value.
a. True
b. False

7. All native plants are low-water users.
a. True
b. False

8. Evapotranspiration refers to:
a. Loss of water from the soil
b. Loss of water from plants
c. Both a and b
d. None of the above

9. The evapotranspiration rate is highest in:
a. Mid August
b. Beginning of September
c. End of April
d. End of June

10.  Toilet leaks can waste as much as
a. 1 gallon a day
b. 15 gallons a month
c. Too small to measure
d. 500 gallons a day

The next step we take in the family is to share our answers and where we got hung up. It opens up the discussion! Did you learn anything or was this just too easy? Did you share this test with your family, too?

Join Us for the Marin-Friendly Garden Tour on Saturday, May 18

Marin-Friendly Garden Tour logoIf you haven’t registered for tomorrow’s Marin-Friendly Garden Tour, it’s not too late! This FREE, self-guided tour showcases nine Marin gardens designed to protect our local environment and conserve water. Discover native plant selections, edibles, rainwater catchment, wildlife habitat gardens, recycled materials, composting systems and more. Visit our website for last-minute registration details.


1. – b. MMWD’s reservoirs include Phoenix, Lagunitas, Bon Tempe, Alpine, Kent, Nicasio and Soulajule.
2. – b. Slow precipitation rates of the MP Rotators will allow the water to penetrate instead of run off.
3. – b. Each type of head throws out different gallons per minute, causing some areas to get too much water and other areas not enough–what we call a lack of distribution uniformity.
4. – a. Non-compensating emitters will lead to water running out faster at the bottom of the slope, leaving little emitting at the top.
5. – c. Lawns use the highest amount of water.
6. – b. Clay has nutrients trapped in its particles. Adding amendments can break down the particles and release the nutrients for plant needs.
7. – b. There are many aquatic native plants.
8. – c. Soil loses moisture through evaporation; plants lose water through transpiration.
9. – d. On average, plants require more water at the end of June than any other time of year.
10. – d. Can you believe that! You can lose up to 500 gallons a day!!

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by Charlene Burgi

It’s National Fix a Leak Week—a week when we’re reminded to check our plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems and make any needed repairs to stop water waste.

Ironically, while visiting my granddaughter and a few out-of-town friends this morning, life presented a near water disaster that tied right into the “fix-a-leak” theme. The morning bustle found early risers lining up for showers and completing daily scrubs before granddaughter Kate rose and prepared for work. Within minutes of entering the bathroom she re-emerged in a state of shock wondering who last showered! It seems that she turned her back on the shower enclosure while waiting for the water to get hot enough to enter. Much to her surprise, water spurted up and over the top of the shower enclosure not only drenching her but creating rivulets on the tile floor before she could react to “stop the leak.”

Leaking showerhead

Leaking showerhead

We laughed at her detailed account of the situation, and then investigated why we all managed to fulfill our bathing ritual keeping the water within its intended confines. The story unfolded as we surrounded the shower stall and tried to replicate the drenching. It seems that the last person in the shower had adjusted the shower nozzle when leaving, angling it into a position that dispensed an unwelcome stream of water. Water was pouring out the top of the showerhead before ever reaching the spray portion of the head. One could only guess how long the showerhead had been losing effective shower water!

Leaks are deadly to your water bill. Silent leaks are the worst, as they come packaged in many forms and can catch you unaware. A toilet that flushes without anyone in the room is not the work of a friendly water-waste ghost, but a silent leak that lowers the tank water to a level that causes the toilet to refill even when no one is using it. Sometimes a leaking toilet can only be found by adding food color to the tank, then checking back after 15 minutes to see if the color has seeped into the bowl.

Irrigation leak

Leaking sprinkler head

Water manages to find the easiest exit out of a pipe. While performing water leak investigations, MMWD’s Conservation staff often discover broken pipes silently leaking below ground. They also commonly find leaky seals around sprinkler heads throwing irrigation water out of the pipe before it ever reaches the nozzle— much like the showerhead misfortune Kate experienced this morning.

Water loss also can rear its ugly head when water pressure exceeds an irrigation system’s intended use. High water pressure may not show up as a leak by the conventional definition, but rather as misting into the atmosphere. This is as much a water-waster as a dripping faucet. Drip emitters can also pop off of a drip line when pressure exceeds the recommended amount of water flowing through the drip tube. The installation of a pressure regulator will correct these problems.

This week, check your water meter. Turn off all the water in the house and yard, then carefully remove the lid of the meter box with a screwdriver. Lift the meter cover and check that all the dials and triangle are not moving. If you see movement, you have a leak to find and repair. This is the week to investigate! While you’re at your meter box, snap a picture of your water meter for a chance to win a water-efficiency prize package through the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership’s “Fix a Leak Week” photo contest.

Remember, if you have water, you have the potential to find a leak when you least expect it, and it isn’t always found by an annoying drip, drip, drip. Just ask Kate!

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