Water Services

3 steps to Fix a Leak and save money

 

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

More than one trillion gallons of water from easy-to-fix leaks are wasted in U.S. homes each year. That’s why the City of College Station is joining with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to encourage you to find and fix leaks during this week’s annual Fix a Leak Week.

Sponsored by the EPA’s WaterSense program, Fix a Leak Week can help you improve the water efficiency of your home by finding and repairing leaks. In an average home, leaks waste more than 10,000 gallons of water annually – enough to wash 270 loads of laundry. That makes for a hefty water bill, too.

You can identify leaks in your home and start saving today with these three simple steps:

1. Check

Check your water bill and water meter for signs of leaks. If winter water use exceeds 12,000 gallons per month for a family of four, you probably have leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.

Water meters also have a leak indicator. If there is a plus (+) sign on your digital water meter, or if a red dial is moving — even slowly — when water isn’t being used, that’s a sign of a leak. Look for dripping faucets, showerheads, sprinklers, and other fixtures. Silent toilet leaks, a common problem that can send water bills soaring, can be detected by placing a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank and waiting 10 minutes before flushing. If any color appears in the bowl during that time, you have a leak.

Don’t forget to check irrigation systems and spigots too.

2. Twist

Apply pipe tape to ensure plumbing fixture connections are sealed tight and give leaking faucets and showerheads a firm twist with a wrench. If you can’t stop the drips yourself, contact a licensed plumber. For additional savings, twist a WaterSense labeled aerator onto each bathroom faucet to save water without noticing a difference in flow. Faucet aerators cost a few dollars or less and can save a household more than 500 gallons each year — enough for 180 showers.

3. Replace

If you just can’t nip that drip, it may be time to replace your fixture. WaterSense-labeled models use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well or better than standard plumbing fixtures. Replacing an old, inefficient showerhead with a WaterSense-labeled model will shrink your household’s water footprint by 2,900 gallons annually while still letting you shower with power, thanks to EPA’s efficiency and performance criteria. With less hot water passing through, WaterSense labeled showerheads can also save enough energy to power your television for a year.

Replace your old toilet using 3½ gallons per flush or more with a WaterSense-labeled toilet, and you could be eligible for a rebate of up to $100.

Get Involved

Grab a wrench this week or contact your favorite handy person, plumber, or licensed irrigator to address leaking toilets, faucets, showerheads, and irrigation systems around your home.

If you find and fix a leak, take a picture (a leaky selfie?) and share it on Twitter (#ifixleaks). For more information on how to save water, go to cstx.gov/water or contact me at jnations@cstx.gov.

Related Links:

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Fighting fatbergs is a dirty – but avoidable – job

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

The iconic line from the movie “Titanic” is “fatberg, right ahead!”

Wait, what?

Sorry, the line was actually about an iceberg. But “fatbergs” are real and can put a fat hole in a utility’s maintenance and operations budget, not to mention causing significant impacts to water quality and the environment from sewer overflows.

Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) – along with flushable and non-flushable rags and wipes – merge in our sewers to form solid, immovable blockages known in our business as fatbergs. They are worse in the winter months when cooler temperatures make it easier for the FOG to solidify.

Recently in London, it took nine weeks to dislodge a fatberg measuring 800 feet long and weighing 130 tons. For comparison, 130 tons is equivalent to 10 London double-decker buses.

Water Production Operator Jared Lapaglia surveys a mass of non-flushables cleared from a pump.

Who drew the short straw?

While College Station hasn’t had fatbergs that colossal, we aren’t immune to problems caused by FOG and wipes. Our wastewater treatment plants use ultraviolet light to disinfect the treated wastewater, and when a big grease blob sticks to the UV light, the light can’t do its job. Courageous operators must manually remove balls of grease, wads of wipes, paper towels – we’ve even found underwear – to keep our equipment from being damaged.

I’m not sure, but our brave operators probably draw straws to see who handles that dirty job!

Fatbergs can be costly

FOG and trash in the sewer system can also lead to increases in your wastewater rates. For the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion, a $150,000 preliminary screening station was added to the design to remove such things as wipes, rags, hygiene products of the cotton and plastic variety, and trash.

Manually removing the grease at our wastewater plants costs College Station an average of $600 each week. We traced a recent sewer overflow to grease and paper towels coming from a fast food restaurant, which had to close for five hours while we made repairs.

Ways to trim fatbergs down to size

  1. Scrape food scraps into the garbage and let grease solidify in pans first before placing it in the trash. Pour oil and grease into a can. Once it has hardened, you can put the sealed container in regular trash.
  2. Avoid placing paper products – even those marked as flushable – down the drain or in the toilet. #NoWipesinPipes
  3. You can help protect your sewer system by remembering to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poop, and toilet paper.

Water Services – especially our valiant wastewater operators – appreciate your help in reducing our fatberg problem. If you have any questions, contact me at jnations@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Six terrific reasons to attend a free sprinkler workshop

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

If learning to program your sprinkler controller, spot irrigation leaks, and trim your water bills rank high among your summer goals, you’ll want to attend one of three free workshops hosted by College Station Water Services as part of Smart Irrigation Month.

Each participating household will receive a rain gauge, soil moisture meter, and $25 gift card to a home improvement store to get you on the way to saving water.

The first seminar is scheduled for this Saturday, followed by additional workshops on June 17 and July 22:

  • June 10 — 10 a.m.-noon, CSU Meeting & Training Facility (1603 Graham Rd.).
  • June 17 — 10 a.m.-noon, Event Center at Castlegate II (4205 Norwich Dr.).
  • July 22 — 10 a.m.-noon, CSU Meeting & Training Facility (1603 Graham Rd.).

Here are six terrific reasons to attend a Sprinkler Spruce Up seminar:

  1. You have a small lot and have had a summer water bill greater than $30.
  2. You’ve had high summer water bills in the past and want to avoid sticker shock again.
  3. You’re curious about how slight adjustments to your watering schedule could save you money.
  4. You have a sprinkler system but are afraid that scaling back your watering schedule will kill your lawn.
  5. You don’t know how much water your sprinkler system uses or how much water your lawn needs.
  6. Your neighborhood or homeowner association collectively wants to reduce the amount of water consumption and runoff – and clear up those algae-ridden sidewalks!

You’ll discover valuable sprinkler system maintenance tips, see the latest in water-saving sprinkler technology, get pro tips from a licensed irrigator, and learn how to receive weekly watering advice from the Brazos Valley Water Smart Network.

For more information or to register, contact me at 979-764-6223 or jnations@cstx.gov.

 


About the Author

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

Image Copyright: fotokostic / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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This weekend’s tax holiday can save money — and water

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

If your landscape needs a spruce-up, this weekend is the ideal time to upgrade your irrigation controller, install a rain sensor, and add mulch to your new drought-tolerant plants.

And it’s all tax-free.

The state comptroller’s office is offering a sales tax holiday Saturday through Monday on the purchase of certain water-efficient products. The tax holiday was made possible by legislation passed in 2015 that provides an incentive for Texans to conserve our limited water resources.

Eligible tax-exempt items can be used to conserve or retain groundwater, recharge water tables, or decrease ambient air temperature, which reduces evaporation. For example, mulch is tax exempt because it cools the soil and helps retain water.

Other tax-free items include:

  • WaterSense labeled products.
  • Soaker or drip-irrigation hose.
  • Moisture control for a sprinkler or irrigation system.
  • Rain barrel or an alternative rain and moisture collection system.
  • Permeable ground cover surface that allows water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points.
  • Plants, trees, and grasses.
  • Soil and compost

WaterSense-labeled products go through an independent, third-party certification process and meet the EPA’s specifications for efficiency and performance. The beauty of WaterSense is having water-saving products in your home or business that deliver exceptional performance and savings on water bills for years to come.

In addition to tax savings, rebates for toilets and rain barrels are available for College Station water customers.

Take advantage of this opportunity to help conserve our water resources while saving yourself some cash. For more information visit the Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday page on the Texas Comptroller’s website.

 


About the Author

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after serving two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and received a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


Image Copyright: raywoo/123RF Stock Photo 

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Public Works connects us, enhances our quality of life

By Wally Urrutia, Sanitation Superintendent

Most of us take for granted that our trash will be picked up on time, our drinking water will be clean, and our public facilities will be adequately maintained. But College Station’s public works infrastructure, facilities, and services wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated professionals of the Public Works Department.

Efficient and professional public works programs manage our water, sewer, streets, traffic operations, storm water drainage, fleet maintenance, public building maintenance, recycling and solid waste collection. These services are vital for the safety, health and high quality of life we enjoy in our growing community.

This week marks the 57th annual National Public Works Week, which celebrates the thousands of men and women across the United States and Canada who provide and maintain the infrastructure and services known as public works. This year’s theme is “Public Works Connects Us,” which celebrates the role public works plays in connecting our communities with our streets, roads, bridges, and public transportation.

National Accreditation

Did you know that College Station is the only city of our size (80,000-150,000 population) in Texas with nationally accredited Public Works and Water Services departments? Administered by the American Public Works Association (APWA), the accreditation program recognizes agencies that go beyond the requirements of established industry practices.

The College Station Public Works Department consists of eight divisions — Capital Projects, Facility Maintenance, Streets Maintenance, Drainage Maintenance, Traffic Operations, Sanitation, Fleet Services and Administration. Our 123 employees deliver sanitation services and plan, build and maintain the infrastructure that allows our community to grow and prosper.

About Public Works Week

Since 1960, the APWA has sponsored National Public Works Week as a way for its 28,000 members to educate the public on the importance of public works in their daily lives. The occasion is marked each year with scores of resolutions and proclamations from mayors, governors, and presidents.

As we observe National Public Works Week, we honor and thank the employees of our Public Works and Water Services departments for their professionalism, hard work and the high level of dedicated service they provide to our community every day.

 


About the Blogger

Sanitation Superintendent Wally Urrutia is in his 30th year with the City of College Station. He was named Solid Waste Manager of the Year in 2016 by the Texas Public Works Association.


 

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New water meters will improve accuracy, planning

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Water Services is replacing about 5,000 residential water meters to allow the city to more accurately monitor water usage, plan for future water needs, and support water conservation.

The project began in April and is expected to be complete in June. You won’t be charged for your new meter, which will be replaced in order of billing cycle to allow you to begin a fresh cycle with the new meter.

The contractor won’t need to enter your home or business to do the replacement, but they may walk through your yard to access the water supply valve. Our water meters are located below ground in plastic, concrete or cast iron meter boxes with lids, typically near the sidewalk or curb.

The contractor’s vehicles are marked “Contractor for College Station Water Services.” If you’re home, the workers will let you know before briefly shutting off your water. If you aren’t home, they’ll leave a tag on your door to let you know they replaced your meter.

As with any measuring device, meters can become less accurate as they age. Water meters more than a decade old can significantly under-register flows. If the new, more accurate meter results in a slightly higher water bill, that means your old meter wasn’t registering all the water you used.

If you experience any problems or leaks with the new meter, please call College Station Utilities Dispatch at 855-528-4278. Choose option 2 to report a water issue and leave your contact information.

If you have any questions or concerns, call Water Services at 979-764-3660.

 


About the Author

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after serving two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and received a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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