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Dreaming of a Better Bathroom? Retrofit with WaterSense!

by Kimberly Scharl

With WaterSense-labeled products, you can save water, energy, and money.

With WaterSense-labeled products, you can save water, energy, and money.

Bathrooms are by far the largest water users in the home, accounting for more than half of all the water that families use indoors. But advances in plumbing technology and design mean that there is a wide variety of faucets, showers, and toilets that use significantly less water than standard models while still delivering the rinse, spray, and flush you expect. So, if you are planning to remodel your bathroom, you have a great opportunity to also save water and money.

Why save water? Because it’s our most precious natural resource, and because at least two-thirds of the United States have experienced or are bracing for local, regional, or statewide water shortages. Even after recent rains in the mid-Atlantic, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows areas in the region that are abnormally dry.

WaterSense labeled products are backed by independent third party certification that meet EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. So, when you use WaterSense labeled products in your home or business, you can be confident you’ll be saving water without sacrifice.

Changes we make at home will add up quickly in neighborhoods across the country. If one in every 10 American homes upgrades a full bathroom with WaterSense-labeled fixtures, we could save about 74 billion gallons of water and about $1.6 billion on our utility bills nationwide per year.

Giving your bathroom a high-efficiency makeover by replacing older, inefficient bathroom fixtures with a WaterSense-labeled toilet, faucet, and showerhead can help your household save in more ways than one. Use this simple water savings calculator to estimate how much water, energy, and money you can save by installing WaterSense-labeled products in your home or apartment.

 

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl joined EPA in 2010, after moving to Pennsylvania from Mississippi. She is a financial analyst and project officer in the Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, and is the Regional Liaison for the WaterSense Program. Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How 3 Wastewater Treatment Facilities saved $69,000/year in Energy Costs

By Valerie Breznicky

We’re all familiar with the nightly routine of shutting off the lights and locking the doors, but that doesn’t happen at wastewater and water treatment plants.  Wastewater and water treatment is a 24/7 process and the amount of energy used for that treatment is huge.  But more and more utilities are finding ways to hold down those electric costs – and it helps the environment, too.

Broken Straw Valley Area Authority, PA – One of the many parts of water treatment is aeration, where air is forced through water to transfer oxygen to it.  This water authority identified that their aeration process was wasteful, and changed their computer program to aerate only when the treatment tank was completely filled.  This reduced the aeration time significantly, changing the process from aeration on a continuous flow to aeration of batches.  With this change, the Authority has seen an energy savings of about $10,000 a year.

Broken Straw Valley Area Authority

Broken Straw Valley Area Authority

Ridgeway Borough Wastewater Facility, PA – With the help of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Technical Assistance Team, the Borough changed the operation of the aeration system to run intermittently instead of continuously.  Consider your shower.  It wouldn’t make sense to keep the water running all day just so a few people could jump in and get clean.  The Borough invested in a $500 timer to control the timing of the process and, in turn, saved $31,000 a year in energy and chemical costs, while improving the quality of its effluent.

Ridgeway Wastewater Treatment Plant

Ridgeway Wastewater Treatment Plant

Berlin Borough Wastewater Facility, PA – Like Ridgeway Borough, Berlin Borough changed the operation of the aeration system to run intermittently instead of continuously, installing a timer to control the process and, in turn, saved $28,000 a year in energy and chemical costs, while improving the quality of its effluent.

Berlin Borough Wastewater Facility

Berlin Borough Wastewater Facility

Improving energy efficiency is an ongoing challenge for drinking water and wastewater utilities.  Facilities can make a number of small changes that add up to major energy and cost reductions.

Learn more about wastewater technology and energy efficiency here.  Do you know how your water utilities are saving energy and money?

About the Author: Valerie is an environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, and one of the Region III Sustainable Infrastructure Coordinators.  She has more than 28 years of experience managing infrastructure grants and has spent 5 and one-half years as a Sustainable Infrastructure (SI) Coordinator, insuring the sustainability of our water and wastewater infrastructure through information sharing and the integration of SI principles in all State programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Lowdown on Why Water Use is Down in DC

By Ken Pantuck

It turns out that when it comes to water conservation, what goes up sometimes does come down.  And what each of us does in our homes really does have an impact.

Water consumption in the District of Columbia is down from an average of 125 million gallons per day in 2004 to 100 million gallons today, according to recent reports from DC Water.   Similarly, the amount of wastewater going to Washington’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant has declined over the past decade.

A shot of DC’s urban water resources Photo courtesy of Flickr photographer ad454 from EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project

A shot of DC’s urban water resources. Photo courtesy of Flickr photographer ad454 from EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project

How did this reduction occur?  It seems to be a combination of factors.  Homeowners have decided to use water-saving appliances in new homes and to replace water consumptive fixtures.  DC Water has pushed an effective and ongoing program to repair and replace aging and deteriorated sewer segments.  Proactive steps have been taken to eliminate other sources of water in the system, like tidal intrusions. And rainfall and ground water levels have been lower than normal.

Although earth is often referred to as the “water planet” with about 70% of its surface covered by water, less than 1% of the water is available for human use.  Water supplies are finite, and the residents and wastewater utility in DC are helping to protect this critical and precious resource where they live.  The story of water use in the district shows that the collective action of individuals can make a big difference to ensure there is enough clean water for generations to come.

The water conservation message is simple and something that any municipality, large or small, can easily promote.  Encouraging residents to use less water is low cost and can produce significant savings.  For example, the 25 million gallons of water savings in DC also results in a savings of $2,500 per day in processing costs at the Blue Plains Treatment Plant.  Even more important, lower rates of water use means that less water is going through a wastewater system, which can relieve the pressure on treatment plants during large storm events.  In a smaller plant, this could mean the difference between expanding the plant or not.

What can you do to help reduce water use where you live?  One thing is to look for WaterSense-labeled water appliances for your home.  WaterSense is an EPA partnership program that seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, homes, and services.  Get lots of tips for how you can save water in your home here.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Responding to Water Impacts of Climate Change

By Christina Catanese

Comment on EPA's Draft Climate Change Strategy hereWhen we hear predictions such as temperature increases of 3 degrees Celsius, and 13 inches of sea level rise resulting from climate change, we wonder what that means for us and our communities. If the ocean is at your front door, the threat is pretty clear. But for the rest of us, the implications are not so apparent. For example, did you know that climate change could impact the systems that bring us our drinking water and prevent flooding and sewer overflows?

While the impacts will vary significantly from one region to another, climate change is almost certain to cause more extreme weather events, including changing precipitation patterns and increased severity of drought and flooding. Greater frequency and intensity of rain events could also overwhelm our systems that are designed to deal with them.

As temperatures increase and sea levels rise, salt water is likely to intrude in to surface and groundwater,  resulting in more water impairment.  This can make the already challenging job for our drinking water treatment operators even tougher, and cause treatment costs to rise, which would impact our pocketbooks. Learn more about the impacts of climate change on water resources here.

How should EPA’s water programs respond to climate change? In response to these challenges, EPA recently drafted the 2012 Strategy Response to Climate Change to address impacts to water and how they could affect EPA’s water programs.  And we’re looking for your input.

You have until May 17th to provide your comments on this draft strategy.  Find out how to comment here!

Making sure that EPA’s programs continue to protect human health and the environment even in changing climate conditions will require collaboration from all of us.  We hope you’ll join us in facing up to this challenge!

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The More You Know… About Your Drinking Water

By Christina Catanese

Delivering safe drinking water is a process many of us take for granted when we turn on the tap, but one that requires careful and constant management.

When you get mail from your water provider, it probably doesn’t seem any more exciting than any of the other bills in the mail pile.  But soon, you’ll be receiving something from your water system that you might want to take a closer look at.  It will certainly be more interesting than writing a check, and you’ll get some valuable information about your drinking water.

Each year by July 1st, you should receive a short report (called a consumer confidence report or drinking water quality report) in the mail from your water supplier that tells you two main things: where your water comes from and what’s in it.

These annual reports provide tons of useful information in an overview of the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.  It will tell you the river, aquifer, or other source of drinking water that your water comes from, and the main threats to the source water in your area.  Your report will list any regulated contaminants that were detected in treated water in the last calendar year, whether there were any violations of EPA standards, and the possible risks to your health.

Besides providing a wealth of information, reports point you in the direction of places to learn even more, like EPA’s safe drinking water hotline, information about your local water system, and source water assessments.  Still thirsty for information about your drinking water?  Find information for your state here. Some state agencies also post information on the systems they regulate on Drinking Water Watch.

If you don’t get your annual report in the mail (or if it somehow gets eaten by the mail pile monster), you might be able to find it online.  Any community water system that serves more than 100,000 people is required to make its report available on the web.  Some smaller systems also post their reports online.  See if your water system’s report is posted here. You can always contact your water system if you can’t find your report or have questions about your drinking water supply.

Have you gotten your annual report yet?  Do you usually read them when you get them?  What information would you like to see that isn’t included in your annual report?  Tell us what you learned from your report in the comments section.

National Drinking Water Week is next week, May 6-12! Celebrate by taking some time to get to know your drinking water.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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On the Road to Wastewater Energy Savings

By Matt Colip

Kent County Wastewater Treatment Plant has implemented some innovative energy efficiency measures, like solar panels, instrument optimization, and sludge drying greenhouses.

Kent County Wastewater Treatment Plant has implemented some innovative energy efficiency measures, like solar panels, instrument optimization, and sludge drying greenhouses.

It’s a fact that a modern, four-cylinder hybrid engine gets much better gas mileage then a larger, earlier generation, eight-cylinder engine.  Both get us where we need to go, but at different levels of energy use and fuel costs.

A similar concept can be applied to our local wastewater and drinking water facilities.  Operators of these facilities  are becoming more aware of just how much energy they use and more informed about ways to reduce energy usage. There are many methods of wastewater treatment, but just like cars, these processes vary in energy use and cost.

One easy way for water treatment operators to learn about the latest strategies in making their facility energy efficienct is by referring to EPA’s guidance document Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities.  It’s designed to guide treatment plant operators through the process of maximizing their facility’s energy efficiency, while also reducing their costs.  The guidebook utilizes a four-step approach: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

They can also attend the May 8 Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg that we blogged about recently. This event (held by EPA in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) is for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately carbon footprint, and will highlight several areas related to energy efficiency.

As a homeowner, you can help your drinking water and wastewater plants save operating costs by becoming more water efficient yourself. One way to do this is by utilizing WaterSense products in your household.

For more information on energy efficiency, please visit our website. For information about the Energy Roundtable event, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.

About the Author: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. He is also interested in technologies that promote efficient living, strives to practice what he preaches, and is moving to a house on a pervious pavement street in Philadelphia. Matt’s love of bicycling took him on a solo cross country tour (riding from San Francisco to the New Jersey shore) as well as around Puerto Rico and across Ohio with colleagues and friends.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Giving Pollutants the Pretreatment

By Steve Copeland

Industry needs a place to send the wastewater it produces. But, conventional wastewater treatment plants can’t handle hazardous industrial pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and volatile organic compounds. These pollutants can pass right through wastewater treatment plants untreated and discharge to rivers and streams, which can harm aquatic life and human health.  These untreated pollutants can also interfere with the functioning of the wastewater treatment plants so that they are unable to do what they are designed for — treating sewage.

 In order to prevent these problems, the Clean Water Act requires industrial users of wastewater treatment plants to have permits requiring their discharges to be effectively pretreated. EPA works closely with state and local governments ensuring that industries treat their own wastewater before it makes its way to larger treatment plants.

 Effective pretreatment protects our waters so they are safe for swimming, fishing, and drinking.  For example, pretreatment can neutralize the acidity of the wastewater, strip out harmful metals, or dilute the wastewater before it is discharged so that it is no longer harmful. To comply with their permits, industrial users must remove these pollutants before sending their wastewater to sewer systems because wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove these harmful compounds.

 EPA provides training to wastewater pretreatment plant operators on developing successful pretreatment programs. The operators who attend the training and conferences we sponsor have indicated these sessions enable them to implement effective treatment programs.  This is another example of EPA reaching out to industry and local governments,  and working with them to protect public health and the environment.

 Visit this link and click on the “Pretreatment” tab for more information about pretreatment in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Save the Date: Energy Roundtable Conference

washingtonaqueductBy Matt Colip

Drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately 3% of energy use in the United States, and are typically the largest energy consumers in communities, sometimes accounting for 30% of total energy consumed. Energy as a percentage of operating costs for drinking water systems can reach as high as 40% and is expected to rise in the coming decades. So you may want to give your neighborhood wastewater treatment plant a heads-up about a way it can save money and save energy.

EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are sponsoring an Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg, PA.  This event is for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately carbon footprint, and will highlight several areas related to energy efficiency.  This innovative and collaboration-oriented event will start with a primer on Understanding Your Energy Bill, followed by a Discussion of Tools to Assess Energy Use, Energy Audits, and Available Funding Sources.  This conference is not your run-of-the-mill lecture – no, we want to hear from real, live wastewater treatment operators and help others learn from success stories at saving energy and reducing costs!  This event will be an open discussion roundtable.  If you are an operator and would like to be involved in the Roundtable as a “Champion” of energy efficiency or as a Mentor, please send an email to the contact below.

Here are the essential details:

ENERGY ROUNDTABLE CONFERENCE

May 8, 2012

Penn State University– HARRISBURG CAMPUS

Science & Tech Building – Room 128

777 West Harrisburg Pike

Middletown, Pa.

For more information on energy efficiency, please visit our website. For information about this event, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.  We hope to see your water treatment operator there!

About the Author: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. He is also interested in technologies that promote efficient living, strives to practice what he preaches, and is moving to a house on a pervious pavement street in Philadelphia. Matt’s love of bicycling took him on a solo cross country tour (riding from San Francisco to the New Jersey shore) as well as around Puerto Rico and across Ohio with colleagues and friends.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bay Website Focuses on Action

By Tom Damm

Click here to view a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

There’s a new look to EPA’s Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” website.

The pollution diet, or Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was established by EPA in December 2010, based largely on action plans provided by the watershed’s six states and the District of Columbia.

The website now has a greater focus on activities at the local level happening around the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed to reduce pollution impacting the Bay and its vast network of connecting rivers and streams.

One of the new additions is a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

Check out those case studies and the other new items on the site, and let us know what you think.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Zapping Energy Costs

To get a sense for how your local water sector utility can reduce its energy costs, tune in to the latest EPA webcast being offered to plant operators and the public on Thursday, December 1 at 1 p.m.   By Walter Higgins

EPA is helping local drinking water and wastewater utilities bring down one of their biggest controllable costs – energy.

In a series of free webcasts and other outreach activities this year, the Water Protection Division in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region is offering tips and tools for more efficient energy use at your local treatment plant.

To get a sense for how your local water sector utility can reduce its energy costs, tune in to the latest EPA webcast being offered to plant operators and the public on Thursday, December 1 at 1 p.m.   This one will focus on reducing operating costs through energy use assessments and auditing.

Improving energy efficiency is an ongoing challenge for drinking water and wastewater utilities.  Energy costs often represent 25 to 30 percent of a treatment plant’s total budget.

The December 1 webcast will help plants focus on two key elements of energy management – determining how much energy the utility is using in each part of its operation, and conducting an energy audit to identify opportunities for greater efficiency and cost savings.

Join us on December 1 to learn more.

About the Author: Walter Higgins is in Region 3’s Water Protection Division where he manages grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects.  He is also involved in working with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency and has been with EPA since 2010.  Prior to EPA he was a soil scientist with the Montgomery County Health Department, in Pa.  He has a B.S. in Agronomy and Environmental Science from Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, Pa.  Something interesting about Walter is that he’s been in the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade since he was 3 years old.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.