CHANGE is hard, but it is possible through EDUCATION.
When children understand the importance of an issue they embrace improving the world and take that message home to their families. The Environmental Protection Agency has materials available for educators available on their website, https://www.epa.gov/watersense/watersense-kids .
Educational materials are also available through the US Geological Survey https://water.usgs.gov/education.html
Information sheets have been developed on a variety of education topics.
There are things you can do every Season to help Conserve Water.
Spring showers bring... lawn maintenance
Protecting and conserving our water supply is a priority of all water resource managers, municipal leaders, and—we hope!—residents of northeastern Illinois. What is one of the most efficient ways to address water conservation? Look at your lawn.
Landscape and lawn watering is one of the leading uses of water in our region, accounting for more than 30 percent of all residential water use. Additionally, as much as 50 percent of all water used outdoors is wasted due to inefficient watering methods and systems. Lawns only need about an inch of water a week, which can be accomplished in 2 hours or even less if it rains. (Watering time will vary based on sprinkler type and water pressure, but 20-30 minutes three times per week is common.)
WE CAN HELP!
Check your hose and sprinkler system to make sure they don’t leak.
Avoid watering during the warmest part of the day by sticking to early morning and later in the evening.
If you use an automated sprinkler system, make sure it is set up correctly (watering early in the morning or late in the evening) and functioning properly (fix those leaks!).
Put down mulch in landscaped areas of your property to prevent evaporation.
Use native prairie plants, which have a deep root system and can thrive in our region with very little watering required.
Consider planting turf grass only in areas where people will use it for recreation.
Install a rain barrel to catch water while it’s raining, and use that water to irrigate your plants. (This also results in less demand on stormwater infrastructure during storms and has a positive impact on water quality in local rivers and streams!)
Click here to check out many more residential water saving tips.
While our region’s water assets are considerable, they are also limited. By using simple water conservation measures at home, you can help ensure future generations have enough water while saving money for yourself right now. Water conservation can include hardware changes like fixing leaky pipes and faucets and simple behavioral changes like turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
Here are some small ways you can make a big difference:
Toilets: A single resident uses about 18.5 gallons of water PER DAY just by using the toilet. This represents the #1 indoor use of water. Many alternatives exist, including low-flow toilets, which use less water per flush, and dual-flush toilets, which use even less water for liquid vs. solid waste. When shopping for new toilets, look for the U.S. EPA "WaterSense" labels. These have been tested to meet high efficiency standards. If you already have efficient toilets in your home, make sure they are working properly. A small leak in a toilet flapper can lead to big water losses each day.
Lawns: Generally, about one-third of residential water is used outdoors for lawns and gardens, and small changes can have a big impact. Change your watering patterns so that lawns get watered early in the morning or late in the evening. Or remove the lawn entirely! Native plants have evolved to thrive in northeastern Illinois, and their long root systems mean they are more resilient in drier summer months and even periods of drought. There are many types of native plants that will look beautiful on your property, some of which will attract butterflies and birds. The Conservation Foundation's Conservation@Home program has many great resources.
Leaks: Leaky toilets, faucets, and valves can result in upwards of 10,000 gallons of wasted water a year. Though there is a cost to repair these leaks, it will save you more in the long run. One common source of leaks is toilet flappers. A new one costs about six bucks, and replacing it could save you $2 to $10 each billing cycle! Small savings like these can really add up.
Check out this video for more information on how water conservation is connected to water rates: Replace Your Leaky Toilet Flapper - WaterSense Bath Hack #3
To flush, or not to flush, that is the question
Unused or expired prescription drugs pose a major risk to public health. If left around the house, they can lead to accidental poisoning of young children and pets. But don’t throw them in the garbage, either. There they risk being retrieved and abused. So… should you throw them down the toilet?
Toilets, sinks and drains seem like obvious places to get rid of stuff. Just *flush*, and it’s gone for good! Right? Unfortunately, no. Let’s explore the list of things that have no place in our sewers and wastewater systems:
Prescription drugs: Unused drugs can contaminate our water supply if flushed down the toilet. To protect kids, pets and the environment, bring unused or expired prescription drugs into your local police department, or search www.willcountygreen.com to find other prescription take-back locations near you.
Fats, oils and grease: Mmmmm, bacon... But, wait, don’t throw that grease down the drain! Leftover fats, oils and grease—even butter, mayonnaise, and salad dressing—can build up in pipes and drains. If enough of it ends up in the sewer system, clogged drains can sometimes lead to raw sewage backing up into your basement. Yuck! If you want those greasy leftovers gone for good, scrape them into a used container or can, freeze it, and then throw the hardened waste in the trash. For larger quantities (We don’t know how much bacon you eat!), search online for recycling centers that can convert it to biodiesel fuel.
Other foodstuffs: Plumbers report that coffee grounds, flour, and eggshells are the least expected but most common causes of clogged residential pipes. Coffee grounds stick together when wet. Similarly, flour clumps up when mixed with water. Eggshells cause small blockages which, over time, collect other solid waste items and lead to big problems. Scrape your food waste into the garbage or compost pile, not down the drain.
Flushable wipes: ‘Truth in advertising’ is an oxymoron, and there is no clearer example than so-called "flushable" wipes. In case you haven’t heard, they are not flushable. Toilet paper breaks down when flushed. Flushable wipes do not and, accordingly, end up blocking drains or clogging pipes. While we’re on the topic, disinfecting wipes don’t belong in the toilet, either!
Produce stickers: Just like eggshells, produce stickers and drains are a big no-no. Though small and seemingly insignificant, these cause small blockages that grow over time as they collect other debris.
What does my water bill pay for?
Turn on the faucet. Water comes out. Easy, right?
Yes! … Well, everything except the “easy” part. A complex system of pipes, plants and people are involved in collecting, filtering, treating, and storing the water before it is delivered to you, the consumer. Fresh, clean drinking water delivered straight to your tap is something you probably take for granted, but it has a price associated with it. Since most of this takes place underground, though, it is very literally out of sight and out of mind for most people.
Let's take a closer look at what's involved: The water is first extracted and pumped from the source. Next, it is treated, filtered and disinfected so it is safe for residential and commercial use. The water is then pumped through miles of underground pipes, transported through the distribution system straight to your home or business. There is a big cost in maintaining and repairing these systems, including the personnel and electricity required to run them. Finally, wastewater is collected and cleaned at a treatment plant so it is safe to return to nature.
For more information, check out this video from the Alliance for Water Efficiency on how fresh, clean water is delivered to your tap:
Water: What You Pay For
Are you ready for storm season?
As the weather changes, heavy storms can mean flooding and other disasters. These precautionary steps can help ensure your home and family will be safe when fall and winter weather arrives:
Clogged gutters and downspouts can let water flow where it doesn’t belong, damaging the interior and exterior of your home. Clean your gutters and downspouts at least two times per year, or more depending on the type and size of trees on your property.
Cold weather can cause water pipes to freeze and burst in unheated areas of your home, such as garages, attics and basements. Protect your pipes with pipe insulation, readily available at any hardware store and easy to install for even a novice DIYer.
We do our best to keep streets clean, but fast-moving storms can blow leaves and other debris into streets and clog storm drains. Keep your yard free of leaves and other debris (including kids’ toys) which can clog the drains and cause street flooding. (But be safe! Don’t go outside if conditions are dangerous.)
Do you have emergency supplies? If there is a blackout, crews will work to restore power as soon as possible. To keep your family safe in the meantime, prepare a family emergency kit with flashlights, extra batteries, candles, a lighter or matches, a battery- or crank-powered radio, and enough food and water for several days.
In case you need to evacuate your home, develop a family disaster plan so that everyone knows where to go and who to contact!
Your safety is our number one priority.
Winterize your home
Broken pipes are inconvenient, expensive, and preventable problems. Don’t be caught off guard by winter weather. Prepare your home now with these simple steps:
Protect pipes in the unheated areas of your home—garages, attics, basements and crawl spaces—by covering them with pipe insulation, readily available at any hardware store and easy to install for even a novice DIYer.
Locate and test your home’s main water shutoff valve so you can cut the flow as soon as you discover a burst pipe. The valve is often located in basements, garages or somewhere outside close to the foundation.
Disconnect and store garden hoses to prevent outdoor spigots from freezing. You can also consider installing a “frost-free” spigot or having a plumber install a shutoff valve inside your home.
If your pipes freeze, shut off the main valve and thaw pipes by placing a rag over the pipes and pouring hot water over them. Never use open flame to thaw frozen pipes. If your pipes burst, turn off the main water shutoff valve and call a plumber.