By Matt Roy, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA
Agency and city leaders are working together this week to promote water conservation in Surprise and across 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 one 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 said. “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 Ms. Ward said are among the worst water wasters at home along with leaky irrigation system.
“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.”
AMWUA has 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 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.
Surprise Water Resources Analyst Jennifer Davidson helped create the guide.
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, Ms. Davidson said.
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 overwatering, while protecting home landscaping from underwatering 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 said. “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 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 information on free water conservation classes, contact ConserveWater@surprise.az.gov.