Water Services

Summer workshops are the key to smart yard irrigation

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

With July being Smart Irrigation Month, it’s an ideal time to improve the efficiency of your outdoor irrigation system.

The City of College Station is here to help.

If learning how to program your sprinkler controller, spot irrigation leaks, and cut your water bills rank high (or at least somewhere) among your summer goals, you’ll want to attend one of College Station Water Services’ free summer workshops.

The first one is Saturday, followed by additional sessions on July 21 and Aug. 4. Each workshop is from 9:30 a.m.-noon at the College Station Utilities Meeting and Training Facility at 1603 Graham Rd.

Each participating household receives a rain gauge, soil moisture meter, and $25 gift card to a home improvement store to start you on your way to saving water. Residents will learn 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.

If you bring a friend, you’re eligible for a bonus prize!

If you can answer “yes” to at least one of the following statements, make plans to attend one of the workshops.

  • You water three or more times per week and are afraid that scaling back your schedule will damage your lawn.
  • You have a small lot or water only a small backyard, but your summer water bill exceeds $30-40.
  • You’ve had high summer bills in the past and want to avoid a repeat.
  • You don’t receive weekly watering recommendations from Brazos Valley Water Smart.
  • Your driveway or front sidewalk is wet after every irrigation cycle.
  • You have dry spots in your yard despite regular watering and don’t know how to fix it.
  • You don’t know how much water your system uses or how much your lawn needs.
  • Your irrigation system doesn’t have a rain shut-off device — or you don’t know what one is!
  • You see fogging or misting when your sprinkler system operates.

For more information or to register, contact Water Resource Coordinator Jennifer Nations at 979-764-6223 or 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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College Station’s new water rates take effect July 1

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Utilities hasn’t increased water rates since 2010 thanks to improved conservation efforts by our customers and the implementation of impact fees on new development.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Last fall, the College Station City Council unanimously approved a six percent increase in water rates as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The council deferred the increase until the fourth quarter, which begins July 1.

College Station has grown more than 25 percent since that last rate increase. That means we need additional water wells to keep up with demand, along with another water tower on the east side of Highway 6. Without one-time impact fees, we’d need a 15 percent rate increase to pay for those necessities.

Water Usage Rates

Here’s a comparative breakdown of the old and new water rates:

Customer Class Usage Per 1,000g before July 1

Per 1,000g after July 1

Residential 10,000 gallons or less $2.26 $2.40
11,000 – 15,000 gallons $2.94 $3.12
16,000 – 20,000 gallons $3.61 $3.83
21,000 – 25,000 gallons $4.28 $4.54
26,000 gallons or more $4.96 $5.26
Commercial Indoor usage $2.49 $2.64
Commercial Outdoor usage (irrigation) $2.68 $2.84

You’ll be charged $2.40 per 1,000 gallons for the first 10,000, $3.12 for the next 5,000, and up the tiers as usage increases.

Your Monthly Bill

More than half of our residential water customers use 10,000 gallons of water or less each month, but some are consistently in the 26,000 gallons-and-up rate block. If you’re a 10,000-gallon user, you’ve paid about $32.79 a month for your water since 2010, which includes a $ 10.19 meter charge. If the existing rates had been indexed annually to inflation, you’d be paying $36.19 today, or $3.40 more. Under the new rate – which includes a $10.80 meter charge – you’ll pay $34.80.

That comes out to about 35 cents for 100 gallons of clean, pure water that’s rated as superior by state regulators. The chart below includes the monthly residential meter charge, which varies by meter size.

Usage Bill before July 1 Bill after July 1 Increase
10,000 gallons $32.79 $34.80 $2.01
15,000 gallons $47.49 $50.40 $2.91
30,000 gallons $111.74 $118.55 $6.81
50,000 gallons $210.94 $223.75 $12.81

Keep Your Costs Down

The City of College Station offers proactive programs to help customers reduce water waste and trim their bills, including free landscape irrigation checkups, direct outreach to the highest water users, rebates on water-saving products, and weekly watering recommendations from Brazos Valley WaterSmart.

Efficient water use is the least expensive way to make our supplies more sustainable, and it keeps your rates lower over time. Your water bill payment is an investment in our water future, ensuring that we can continue to provide you – and generations to come – with high-quality water.

For more information about water rates or conservation, go to cstx.gov/water or call us at 979-764–3660.


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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Sales tax holiday a chance to save water, money

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

Memorial Day weekend in the Brazos Valley means it’s time to Remember the Fallen, along with high school graduations, dance recitals, athletic events, and more. But if you can carve out the time, it’s also a great time to make your home and landscape more efficient.

And it’s all tax-free.

The Texas Comptroller’s Office is offering a sales tax holiday on the purchase of certain water and energy-efficient products from Saturday through Monday. The sales tax holiday was made possible by legislation passed in 2015, and this year marks the second time the tax holiday has provided an incentive for Texans to conserve our limited water resources. In addition to tax savings, rebates for toilets and rain barrels are available for College Station water customers.

Eligible items are things that can be used to conserve or retain groundwater, recharge water tables, or decrease ambient air temperature to reduce water lost to evaporation. Mulch is on the list because it is an excellent way to cool the soil, suppress weeds, and help plants use water efficiently. You can’t go wrong with a good thick layer of organic mulch.

Other tax-exempt items include:

  • WaterSense-labeled products.
  • Soaker or drip-irrigation hoses.
  • Moisture controls for sprinkler or irrigation systems (i.e., rain shutoff switches).
  • Rain barrels or an alternative rain and moisture collection system.
  • Permeable ground cover surfaces that allow water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points.
  • Plants, trees, and grasses.
  • Water-saving surfactants.
  • Soil and compost.

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

For more information, visit the Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday page on the Texas Comptroller’s website. Stay cool this weekend and enjoy water and energy savings!

 

 


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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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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