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Posts Tagged ‘showerheads’

This is the first in a series of posts by MMWD’s interns, summer helpers, and watershed aides about their experiences at the district.

by Philip Shea, Information Technology Intern

As a lifelong Marin resident, growing up in close proximity to the MMWD watershed has always provided me with ample access to abundant habitat away from freeways, cars, and traffic. I learned to mountain bike at a very early age. I’ve hiked miles upon miles of access roads surrounding just about every community and township in the central Marin areas.

Throughout all of this time, I had never considered MMWD as a potential workplace until seeing a job posting for a summer intern. Being here now has brought me back to doing the work I love after earning my Associates degree at College of Marin last May. As an Information Technology intern, I’m assisting anyone at the district using computers (meaning everyone at the district).

I came here in June, a few months after voluntary water-use reductions were requested by our Governor Jerry Brown and MMWD’s Board of Directors. With the education provided by our knowledgeable Water Conservation Department here at the district, I’ve learned that with planning and a little modification of my daily routine, using 25% less water throughout my day really isn’t too difficult and makes me feel like I’m making an important difference.

I’m not a homeowner (yet). But, if I were, I would absolutely take advantage of the education and rebates the district is offering to residents who want to use less water. Even in the lobby of the district offices here, I’ve seen free supplies for testing for toilet leaks, changing showerheads, and learning better water practices, as well as 20% off coupons to Fairfax Lumber & Hardware for outdoor irrigation supplies.

With all of the resources offered, it seems to me we could go above and beyond the 25% voluntary reduction requested by the board, which benefits not only your household, but all of Marin.

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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

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

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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by Shasta Phillips

I spent many boyhood hours complaining about having to go to school. My grievances mostly revolved around feeling what we were taught had no practical application in the real world. I’d argue that knowing the major export of Montana would not help me land a job, that making a battery out of a potato was useless if it couldn’t power my Walkman, and that learning arithmetic had become obsolete with the invention of the calculator wristwatch (because, of course, they would never go out of style).

Even though I often resisted school as a child, returning to the classroom now as a representative of MMWD and teaching water conservation principles is one of the highlights of my job. The turnaround is quite dramatic. Also, when I go to schools now, I am far less likely to be shoved into my own locker.

While my understanding of education has expanded, I still keep in mind the grievances of my school days. I try to make a connection between the subject and the students, explaining why it’s important and how it personally relates to them. I find this is easily done with our “Do-It-Yourself Water Conservation Kit,” where students are taught how to check and improve their water efficiency at home. We then follow up to provide free showerheads and faucet aerators to replace wasteful ones.

This connection really hit home for me during one of these follow-up visits to a Corte Madera school. I asked the class to share some stories and results from their home surveys. After many of the typical stories, one beaming fourth-grade student explained how she had found a severe toilet leak. Not only that, but when her family’s plumber had trouble finding the water meter, she was able to assist by showing him its location. Her fellow students were riveted, and they gasped at the realization that an adult professional required the aid of one of their own to fix a serious problem.

These hands-on activities are designed to empower our students and to show they can make a positive impact on the world. Seeing these effects in action renews my commitment to education and helps make up for what I missed in my boyhood schooldays. To learn more about MMWD’s FREE water education programs for schools, just visit our website.

And since I know you’re wondering, the major export of Montana is bulk wheat.

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by Keith Bancroft

In 1999, the Secretary of Agriculture proclaimed October as National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, due to the popcorn harvest that takes place in the Midwest every fall. Now, you probably didn’t know October was Popcorn Poppin’ Month, and you probably had no idea that the Secretary of Agriculture had the authority to proclaim any month to be any thing. Well, I guess you learn something new every day.

Save Your Green Save Our BlueHere’s another new thing you should know: MMWD is partnering with 15 local businesses who are generously offering special discount coupons for a variety of water-saving materials, products and plants that will help reduce your water use both inside and outside your home.

You’ll find discounts on mulch, California native plants, irrigation supplies, high-efficiency toilets and showerheads, and more. Click here, check it out, print these valuable coupons (and remember to note the expiration dates).

So, next time you’re sitting there just waiting for that corn to finish poppin’, use the time to print yourself out some coupons and make plans to start saving yourself some green and saving our blue!

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