Agencies, cities participate in annual Fix a Leak Week campaign, promote household water conservation

From left, Jennifer Davidson, Ashley Cordova and Reynaldo Aldava of the city of Surprise Water Resources Department pose with a 20-foot-tall tower of bottles representing the amount of water wasted daily at an average Arizona household, which was on display March 19 at City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza. City and agency officials are emphasizing water conservation this week as part of the Fix a Leak Week campaign sponsored across the country by the EPA. [Courtesy of city of Surprise]

By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

Agency and city leaders are working together this week to promote water conservation around the Valley.

Local officials are participating in Fix a Leak Week, an annual awareness campaign sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the agency’s WaterSense program, which aims to convince Americans to waste less water inside and outside their homes.

According to the EPA, minor household leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of wasted water every year in the U.S. Such leaks can total more than 10,000 gallons annually in an average household – an amount equivalent to the water used for 270 loads of laundry.

Carol M. Ward, assistant director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, is leading the local effort this year for her association, which represents 10 cities across the state.

She said the federal WaterSense program, akin to the better-known Energy Star certification program, offers valuable resources to save homeowners money while preserving the state’s dwindling water resources.

“WaterSense has been around 11 years now and they have very limited funding, perhaps $2 million annually versus $40 million with Energy Star,” Ms. Ward explained. “They rely heavily on partnerships to promote the label, as well promotions like Fix a Leak Week.”

Consumers can be sure products bearing the WaterSense label have been independently tested and certified for water efficiency, she said.

Her association was awarded a sponsorship to highlight the Fix a Leak Week campaign in 2011 and since then, the AMWUA mascot, Leaky Loo McFlapper, has traveled to events around the state advocating for water conservation.

Beyond the humor of the eye-catching human-sized toilet costume, Leaky Loo points out an important first step to reducing waste: stopping toilet leaks, which (along with leaky irrigation system) are among the worst water wasters at home, Ms. Ward said.

“Simple things, like changing a toilet flapper, can make a big difference, since water utility rates are tiered,” Ms. Ward said. “And a leak can bump your rate up. If you’re using less water, then you’re paying for less water.”

Continuing the week of public advocacy and events, AMWUA will host free water efficiency workshops, including 3-4 p.m. Thursday, March 21 at the Burton Barr Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

The association has also published a comprehensive Smart Home Water Guide booklet and accompanying website (www.smarthomewaterguide.org) to provide free resources and information to help homeowners find and fix leaks.

Among the resources provided are step-by-step instructions for a number of household improvements, including: how to read a water meter; conduct outdoor and indoor visual leak inspections; isolate continuous leaks; and improve water efficiency around the home.

Jennifer Davidson helped create the Smart Home Water Guide and now works as a water resources analyst for the city of Surprise.

While Surprise is not a member of AMWUA, city officials have promoted the WaterSense Fix a Leak Week campaign and remain focused on promoting water savings throughout the community, according to Ms. Davidson.

She said outdoor leaks are a key culprit for water waste in Arizona and gallons can be saved by simply learning to use irrigation equipment properly.

“In the Valley, we say up to 70 percent of residential water use is outdoors,” Ms. Davidson said. “If you’re looking for savings, look outside first and adjust irrigation timers at least once monthly to minimize runoff.”

To help residents improve the water-saving technology at their homes, city officials offer an irrigation controller program, which provides a rebate of up to $125 to install a WaterSense-certified smart controller for their irrigation systems.

(Officials will process rebate applications until April 30 or until fund depletion, whichever occurs first, according to the city’s website.)

When programmed and used correctly, such devices can dramatically reduce water use by limiting runoff and evaporation caused by over watering, while protecting home landscaping from under watering in the desert heat.

And in addition to reimbursing part of cost, a city official will inspect the installed system and help educate users to get the most from it, Ms. Davidson said.

“Our program is different than most,” Ms. Davidson explained. “We inspect the unit and make sure it’s installed properly. But we also look at the landscaping and teach homeowners to use it. With a smart controller, you have to add that education component to make it work.”

The city also participates as a steering committee partner in the Water Use it Wisely campaign, along with dozens of Arizona agencies and municipalities (wateruseitwisely.com).

The website provides more information and resources for homeowners, including a list of 100 ways to conserve water at home.

Surprise officials also offer a variety of free workshops for residents, which are taught by a master gardener and hosted at the Surprise Gateway Training Center, 13659 W. Cactus Road.

Some of the upcoming classes include:

  • ABCs of Watering: 9-11 a.m. Saturday, April 6
  • Plant Care in the Desert: 9-11 a.m. Saturday, April 13
  • Desert Lawn Care: 9-11 a.m. Saturday, April 27

For more information on free water conservation classes, contact ConserveWater@surprise.az.gov.



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