Am I A Water hog? Here’s What Could Land You on California’s List of Homes Using Too Much Water

With California’s water supply shrinking and the drought dragging on, Bay Area water agencies are getting serious about persuading their customers to use water responsibly.

At least one, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, on Tuesday started releasing the names of those guilty of what it considers “excessive use” of water. Three homes made the initial list but it’s expected to grow to hundreds by the end of October.

So how does someone wind up on this list?

Leaks

According to Andrea Pook, a spokesperson for EBMUD, the circumstances that land most people on the list are leaks and outdoor water use, primarily for landscaping.

Leaks — ranging from drippy faucets to corroded pipes to seeping irrigation systems — exist in about one out of every four of the residences in the district’s service area. Leaks can go unnoticed, particularly if they’re underground or in an area that’s not seen regularly.

“It can be obvious, but it can also be a pain to discover these,” Pook said.

Landscaping is also a major cause of excess water use, she said, particularly during the summer when people are trying to keep their lawns green and their plants from turning to twigs.

People should avoid watering their lawns and plants more than three times a week, Pook said, and should check their irrigation systems to make sure they’re not leaking, that streams from sprinklers are reaching vegetation and not pavement and that automatic programs are set efficiently so they’re not watering too often or too long.

Landscaping is responsible for about two-thirds of wasted water, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

How to stay off the list

How can people best conserve water and stay off the excessive use list? Here’s some advice from experts:

• Check for — and repair — leaks.

• Monitor your water use so you’ll notice if there’s an unexpected spike in use. EBMUD offers rebates on flow meters, devices that can be connected to your water meter and display real-time water use. The district also answers questions during office hours, will conduct audits of your water use and send representatives to your house to look for problems and solutions.

“We find that most people underestimate their use of water,” Pook said.

• Inspect your irrigation system. Turn it on and see if you’re watering the sidewalk instead of the plants. Check the programming to see if it’s set to water efficiently for the weather and the season.

The state Department of Water Resources offers similar advice, but also suggests:

• Get rid of your lawn , or reduce its size, and replace it with drought resistant plants or landscaping that requires little or no water. Grass uses twice as much water as other yard plants, the department says.

• Replace irrigation systems that use sprinklers with drip irrigation systems.

• Change some household practices and equipment: installing high-efficiency toilets, recycling indoor water — from showers and bathtubs, washing machines and sinks for use in the garden, turning off water when brushing teeth or shaving and running only full loads in washing machines and dishwashers.

Still worried about making the list? EBMUD’s policy allows a relatively generous amount of water to be used before a penalty is applied and a warning is issued — an average of about 1,646 gallons per day over the 60-day billing cycle. Average daily use in the district is 200 to 300 gallons per day, Pook said.

According to data released this week in response to a public records request, about 2,250 households received warnings for going over the limit during their early-summer billing period while at least three continued to exceed the threshold for a second period.

Names of violators are made public only after a warning is sent out and a 15-day appeal period has lapsed. The list of offenders released Tuesday reflects just three days of bills being sent out over the continuous two-month billing cycles — the days in which the appeal deadline has passed. The district said it won’t provide another list until late October.

As the drought worsens, and if Northern California has another dry winter, Pook said, the water allotments will shrink.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

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