As California moves further into a third consecutive dry year, the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies encourage residents and businesses to take water-saving actions during national Fix a Leak Week, March 17-23.
While household leaks may seem minor, they waste more than 1 trillion gallons a year nationwide, equivalent to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which sponsors the annual anti-leak campaign.
“San Diego County residents and businesses have done a great job saving water in recent years, but leaks are one of those things you always have to be on the lookout to spot and fix right away,” said Jason Foster, director of Public Outreach and Conservation for the Water Authority. “This year, with a serious drought facing California, we are putting out a special call to fix any leaks outdoors, where the typical household uses the majority of its water.”
The Water Authority’s Board of Directors has declared a Level 1 Drought Watch condition, which requests increased voluntary conservation. The Water Authority does not anticipate water shortages for San Diego County in 2014 because of local investments in water supply reliability projects and programs, a long-term decrease in regional water demand and adequate water storage in Southern California. However, saving more water now helps protect our region from potential shortage conditions by allowing more water to stay in storage in case drought conditions continue into next year. Recommended Drought Watch conservation actions include stopping inefficient irrigation, minimizing outdoor water waste and fixing leaks.
One easy way to identify leakage is to check the water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used at the property. If the meter doesn’t read exactly the same, there’s probably a leak. Water meters also typically have a small, red “leak detector” that spins when water is being used. It is especially useful for quickly detecting small indoor leaks once all water sources are turned off (it won’t detect some leaks in irrigation systems).
Outside leaks usually are associated with irrigation systems, which should be checked at least every spring when outdoor water use starts to increase. The EPA estimates that an irrigation system with a leak 1/32 of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
While outdoor leaks can be difficult to isolate, there are several clues to problems. Look for broken sprinkler heads, along with dripping outdoor faucets and hose bibs, and the presence of mold or algae near irrigation fixtures. Also look for continually damp spots in the yard, particularly along irrigation lines and near valves; they could signal underground leaks. Certified irrigation professionals also can help detect and resolve leaks.
Common types of leaks found inside homes include dripping faucets and showerheads, and worn toilet flappers. Many are easily detectable and correctable. Certified plumbing professionals can help. For problems that can only be addressed with a new appliance or device, look for low-water-use models with the EPA’s WaterSense label.
People who want help identifying leaks and finding other opportunities to improve their water-use efficiency can take advantage of the free WaterSmart Checkup program offered by the Water Authority and its member agencies. Check-ups include site-specific indoor and outdoor water-efficiency recommendations by certified irrigation professionals for owners and managers of commercial, multi-family, industrial, public or single-family properties. Homeowners and property managers can use the no-obligation assessment to decide what changes to make. For details, go to www.watersmartcheckup.org.
The Water Authority will celebrate Fix a Leak Week by giving away toilet leak detection tablets at a free Water Wise Workshop hosted by San Diego Councilmember Mark Kersey at Mount Carmel High School (Room D3), 9550 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego, at 6 p.m. on March 20. Reserve a seat by calling (619) 236-6655 or emailing MarkKersey@sandiego.gov. The tablets will also be distributed at the World Water Day Festival hosted by the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation on March 22. For more information, go to lagoon.aguahedionda.org/.
Also, San Diego Coastkeeper will help promote fixing leaks by handing out toilet leak detection tablets provided by the Water Authority at its upcoming events. And, the tablets will be distributed at the San Diego County Garden Friendly Plant Fair from 8 a.m. to noon on March 22 at The Home Depot, 1001 N El Camino Real, Encinitas.
The Water Authority is also using donated coffee shop gift cards to acknowledge the first five people who submit a photo of someone undertaking leak-reduction efforts on their home irrigation system to the Water Authority’s Love Your Water smartphone photo contest, which runs through March 22. Contest entries are posted on the agency’s Facebook page. All contest participants are eligible for other donated prizes, such as a one-night stay at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter and a gift certificate to Lou & Mickey’s steak and seafood restaurant in the Gaslamp. The contest ends on March 22. Full contest rules are at www.sdcwa.org/love-your-water-photo-contest.
For more information about national Fix a Leak Week, go to www.sdcwa.org/fixaleakweek.