Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Water costs HOW MUCH?

I'm pretty environmentally friendly...I recycle, I use CFL bulbs (more for the longevity than the environment), and I don't run the water when I brush my teeth.  I can see the benefit of recycling...when I started in earnest, I went from a 13 gallon garbage can to an 8 gallon one.  For my fellow frugal folks, I used up all the 13 gallon bags before switching to the smaller ones.  CFL bulbs, in my opinion, ROCK!  I am still using the majority of the bulbs I installed over four years ago.  I have 5 incandescent bulbs left and when those burnout I'll be 100% CFL.

But water conservation?  I really didn't think about it beyond turning off the water when I brush until today...when I got my water bill for $724.98!!  Insert expletives here....

In full disclosure:  The bill is for a 6 unit apartment building and covers a two month period.  But still...this is a 53% increase from my last bill which I thought was already too high.  

My first thought was..."they didn't credit me for my last payment" but as I was calling the City of Chicago's Department of Revenue-Water Division, I realized they had and while I was waiting to be connected to a representative, I tried to re-calculate my bill (still in denial, I know) and found that there had been rate increase on January 1 and of course the bill doesn't break down the number of gallons used prior to the rate increase.  :-(  The Customer Service Rep asks me "have I had a leak?"  Well, one of my tenant's toilet overflowed last month (we won't go into details here) and it was caught in about 15 minutes but could that really account for such a jump?

Well actually, it can.  According to eartheasy.com, a small drip from a faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day.  So my 15 minutes of toilet overflow could account for an increase of 72 gallons.   But looking at a water bill that is actually higher than my heating bill this month got me thinking about how I can make sure I'm doing everything to conserve water.  

Here's what I came up with:  Coin-operated showers and toilets!  Yeah, I know that won't work so I thought about it some more:

  1. Keep the water off while brushing.  This is already saving me between 10 - 20 gallons of water per day.
  2. Check faucets and pipes for leaks.  I'm taking this one step further and have the city's Meter department check to make sure my meter is functioning properly (we have the ones that are read when the truck drives down the street).
  3. Encouraging my tenants to conserve water.  Hey, I got most of them to recycle.
  4. Trying out a water efficient toilet.  If you've been to any environmentally friendly state (like Washington or Oregon) or been to one of the I-294 Oasis in Illinois (so my mother tells me) you may have seen these.  These toilets control the amount of water used when you flush.  You know...more water for some "offerings" and less for others.  I'm installing a dual flush converter in my toilet to see what happens.  According to the saving calculator on the HydroFit website, I should save about 5 gallons per day.
What are you doing to save water?