Good Timing

In the news today: our local utility district has asked East Bay residents to reduce water usage this summer. Residential customers are being asked to cut back usage by 19 percent.

Which means we set up the tank system just in time for it to pay us a bonus by reducing our use of municipal water for irrigation (at the moment it is completely replacing municipal water; I can see that later this summer the system may require supplementing, especially if this week's projected 100F temperatures are a harbinger of weather to come). By switching to the sump water, we've reduced our municipal usage by more than half -- because as a household we use very little water to begin with (we already installed a water-saving dishwasher and water-saving washer). So even without trying, we can cut down out household use by more than what the district is asking for.

And to be clear for those of you not living in a drought-stricken areas: they tried a voluntary program last year and it didn't work (that just so happens to have been when we started irrigating with municipal water, so clearly we were part of its failure -- all this gloating is also tinged with some guilt). This is a mandatory program, and if you fail to comply they will have ways to punish you. So the fact that we will be complying without even really trying (though of course we will also take steps to reduce our water usage anyway) is a good thing, indeed.

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posted by ayse on 05/13/08

7 Comments

Lovely. I already conserve water. I ran into this when I was married. I calculated that my ex and I could either use the toilets or run the washing machine, but not both.

Even though we live right next to the Great Lakes (Lake Ontario in our case) the municipality puts restrictions on our water usage every summer. Last year, one of my colleagues was going on and on about how the city had no right to tell him that he couldn't water his lawn when all this water was right at his doorstep. My reply to him was "The city couldn't care less if you want to pump the water right out of the lake to water your lawn -- the issue is that people are using treated municipal water to wash their cars and water their lawns and flowers. Wouldn't you rather forego this than not have enough treated water for drinking, cooking, and showering?" I didn't hear another peep from him all summer on this topic.

By the way, I've been reading your blog for almost two years now and it is by far the best one out there in my humble opinion. Keep up the great work!

Elaine, I think you're pretty much an oddity on the water conservation thing. People seem to have forgotten the drought already, and a lot of folks who moved here from wetter areas act as if the supply of water is endless.

Peg, thanks for the compliment. We sure try to be entertaining even when we can't be informative or even particularly relevant.

I wish I had your tank setup, but we have no easily accessible groundwater. I'm considering rainbarrels, though. We have massive water surcharges if you go over a certain amount, as well as watering-time restrictions.

I'm tempted to turn in my neighbor, whose sprinklers run for an hour every night. Even if it's raining. Though I'll probably just say something to him about how he's drowning his lawn. That will probably be more effective.

I've been considering a rain barrel system, as well; I don't want to dump any water in the street (where it would run into the bay rather than recharging our aquifer), so I was thinking I would use rain barrels as a sort of time buffer: the rain flows into the barrels and is slowly perked into the soil around the house. Since all our rain comes between October and April, storing up water would require a lot more capacity than we currently have. In places where it rains year-round, rain barrels just make a lot of sense.

while we were in escrow forever and ever (during the rainy season) i did quite a bit of reading and daydreaming about a rain barrel system too. it's something i'd still like to do, but we have so many other projects in queue first. -sigh- also, we are still suffering from the new-to-us-want-to-do-everything-right-now syndrome.

we've gotten a duel flush toilet (to replace the 8 gallon per flush one) and a high efficiency washer, but i'm concerned about the ebmud usage comparison method of determining conservation. we don't have three years of our usage to compare to and being a three person household (with one person home all day) i'm assuming that we're going to use more water than the previous single person household...especially more than in the last year when the house was vacant...

My understanding of how they monitor the usage is that when they find a non-compliant household they investigate, not that when they find a non-compliant household they begin with the prosecution. There are a lot of legitimate reasons why a household might have a change in the amount of water they use (new child, adding a roommate, so on), but they want to remove as much pure waste from the system (hmm, bad term) so that there's enough water to go around.

Also, I should mention that last summer an EBMUD guy came around and replaced our water meter because it was leaking, and they'd noticed the leak by monitoring our water usage as a household (although I think the new irrigation system use plus the pumping water to the street may have been confusing them). The first thing they are going to do is look to see if something unusual has happened in that location.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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