Water Efficiency

Fix a Leak Week 2012: What I Do to Save Water

By Elona Myftaraj

WaterSupply_049

I lived in Albania until I was about six years old, and one of the few things I remember is how scarce water was.  There was very little indoor plumbing, and every Saturday was spent walking up the mountain carrying water, an all day trip.  All water was stored in huge barrels, each specified for drinking, bathing, farming, or household chores.  The water had to be carefully rationed so it didn’t run out.

When we moved to the United States, my sisters and I were fascinated with the indoor water systems.  Since water was now abundant, we started to get carried away with our usage.  We could control the temperature of the water instead of waiting for the sun to warm it up, and we could finish the dishes unbelievably quickly.  There were no more trips up the mountain and, seemingly, no need to conserve.  We had all of the water we wanted, whenever we wanted it… that is, until our dad saw the water bill.  He reminded us of the way we used to live and explained to us how important conserving water was, even if we live in a place where its supply is not scarce.  We learned to do simple things to save water, like not letting the sink run when we brush our teeth, and remembered that we didn’t need to waste so much.

Working as a student at the EPA has taught me a great deal about how important water is, along with many ways to conserve.  I learned that a toilet leak can waste as much as 200 gallons of water every day, and that washing your car with a bucket and sponge instead of a hose saves a lot of water.  Replacing old or broken showerheads, sink faucets, and toilets with the WaterSense labeled products can be a big help.  Just taking a few simple steps can help save a lot of water.

That’s how I learned to save water.  What’s your story? Share it with us in honor of Fix a Leak Week (March 12-19, 2012).

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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Green Tracks for Maryland’s Light Rail

By Nancy Grundahl

Read more about green initiatives proposed in, “Design Green! Best Practices for Sustainability, Safe Street Design for the Red Line.”

The Maryland Transit Administration is testing a “Green Track” concept, establishing vegetation between and adjacent to light rail tracks.  Among the positive outcomes is a reduction in polluted stormwater running into local streams.

The question is: will the turf grass and/or sedums planted between the tracks survive in the railway environment and become established well enough to present a dense and attractive growth in Maryland?  If so, green tracks are to be considered for incorporation into portions of the Red Line, a 14-mile light rail transit line proposed in Baltimore City. Additionally, the Green Track concept is being considered for portions of the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail project in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. (Read more about green initiatives proposed in, “Design Green! Best Practices for Sustainability, Safe Street Design for the Red Line.”)

Green tracks are not uncommon in Europe, most notably in France and Germany. The benefits are many.  Some stormwater that would otherwise run off will be captured by the vegetation and soil. The temperature in the immediate area will be moderated, being a little cooler in the summer, reducing the urban heat island effect.  And, the noise from the trains will be dampened. Regular monitoring of Maryland’s Green Tracks test areas is currently underway.

Interested in seeing the green track test segments in person?

In mid-town Baltimore go to the Cultural Center Light Rail Station which is near the intersection of North Howard and West Preston Streets. There are two test areas here.

There is another test area in the suburbs near the Ferndale Light Rail Station in Anne Arundel County.  The test area is located between South Broadview Boulevard and Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard south of the station and the firehouse.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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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New Year, New Student Challenge

By Alysa Suero

As 2010 winners in the Elementary School category, the students of Worcester Elementary were all smiles after the award ceremony!

The new year is soon here.  What opportunities await us as we turn the calendar?  If you’re a student leading a school group or participating in a class project to study and protect the Schuylkill River, the new year brings an opportunity to show off your project to a regional audience.

Nominations are now open for the 8th annual Schuylkill Action Network Drinking Water Scholastic Awards, and qualifying for consideration is easy!  All you have to do is lead or participate in a classroom lesson or outdoor project that improves the water quality of the Schuylkill River, a source of drinking water for approximately 1.5 million people.  Previous winning projects include building a campus rain garden, planting trees near a creek, and creating and filming short public service announcements about keeping our rivers clean.

Students in kindergarten through college are eligible for a prize, but only if you enter by March 2, 2012 in one of four age categories (elementary, middle, high school and college).  Teachers, students, parents and community members can nominate a class, an individual college student or a campus club!

The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) is a collaboration of more than one hundred organizations and individuals, including EPA Region 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Philadelphia Water Department, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.  The goal of the SAN is to improve the water resources of the Schuylkill River watershed.

To learn more about the annual awards, including nomination criteria, or to nominate your class or student leader online, visit: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=v6qlnbcab&oeidk=a07e5425qmq59cca5d3

Remember, the deadline for nominations is March 2, 2012.

In the meantime, share your comments below about what you do to keep the Schuylkill River clean.

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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Longwood Gardens has Largest Green Wall in North America

By Nancy Grundahl

For more information on the green wall at Longwood Gardens, click here. Photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens.

Longwood Gardens in southeast Pennsylvania has established the largest green wall in all North America.  Located in Kennett Square about 30 miles from Philadelphia, Longwood Gardens is an oasis of landscaped beauty.  Built by Pierre du Pont between 1907 and the 1930’s, the gardens were turned over to a foundation in the 1940’s to ensure that the general public would be able to enjoy them for years to come.

The idea for the green wall started as a sketch on a cocktail napkin. Longwood desired a grand new entrance to the East Conservatory Plaza.  And, because they handle almost one million visitors a year, there was also a need for more restrooms. The result is a curving structure with 17 restroom pods strung together. The walls consist of 3,590 modular panels mounted on a steel framework. Each panel houses a carefully selected variety of plants, about 47,000 plugs in total. The plants are fed by drip irrigation of water enhanced with liquid fertilizer.

The living walls – which have multiple water benefits – help connect visitors with plants, dampen noise in the area, provide moisture and oxygen to the air, and moderate the temperature of the microenvironment in that area. Green walls are one of the tools used by architects and planners to create more sustainable communities. Depending on the design and whether they are indoors or outdoors, green walls can enhance the water environment by slowing down a significant amount of stormwater runoff, resulting in healthier streams. Green walls can also be a way to reuse grey water, such as wastewater collected from washing and runoff from roofs. The plants can purify the water and the system can reduce overall water consumption.

For more information on the green wall at Longwood Gardens, go to:  http://www.longwoodgardens.org/EastConservatoryPlazaPR.html.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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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A Firsthand View

By Trey Cody

Wastewater Treatment 101 

As an intern in EPA Region III’s Water Protection Division, my day typically involved working in the office on projects related to the region’s Healthy Waters Initiative.      

But near the end of my internship this summer, I was able to get a firsthand look at what is being done to treat water in the Philadelphia area. I participated in a tour of the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant, managed by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), viewing the processes that allow the plant to clean around 194 million gallons of wastewater per day.

There are the preliminary treatment processes, which remove the large debris like trash and rocks from the wastewater coming into the plant.  Then there is the removal of smaller particles like dirt and grit in a settling tank. And then, biological processes take over, as various kinds of bacteria and microorganisms go to work to consume the organic matter in the wastewater.  Finally, the water is disinfected (usually with chlorine or UV light) before it is discharged to a neighboring stream. The solids that were taken out of the water during the process are referred to as biosolids, which are usually disposed of in landfills, but can be land-applied as fertilizer.  Who knew all this happened to the water once it went down the drain in my house!  I was surprised by how large the plant was; there are so many processes to keep moving and monitor along the way.  And it wasn’t even that smelly most of the time!

The Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant was built in the early 1950’s, then expanded and renovated from 1975 to 1983 to ensure PWD met the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  This treatment plant is one of three of the PWD’s facilities that treat wastewater before it is discharged back into rivers and streams. 

Do you know where your water goes after you use it, and what happens to it along the way before it goes back into our rivers and streams?  Have you ever visited a wastewater treatment plant?  You can take a virtual tour of one of the largest plants by clicking here. http://www.dcwasa.com/about/model_flash.cfm

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 Fish a lift

By Brian Hamilton

The Fairmount Fishway under construction. Click here to bookmark the fish cam!

How would you react if you were driving home one day and there was a roadblock stopping you from making your destination?  You’d feel confused and would probably try to find an alternate route.  What if every other route you knew was blocked as well?  For many fish species this is a real problem they encounter when facing dams on rivers and streams.

Most migratory fish species swim from saltwater to freshwater to spawn, and dams can impede their natural path.  One way to help fish bypass a dam and complete their journey is to construct a fish ladder.

Fish ladders are structures that are on or around artificial barriers, such as dams. The ladders allow the fish to gradually swim into successive upstream chambers and avoid the impediment.  The styles can vary, but the end goal is to get the fish up and over the dam.

The Mid-Atlantic region is home to several fish ladders, including one in Philadelphia constructed in 1979 and renovated in 2009 to help boost fish over the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill River.

The Philadelphia Water Department operates a monitoring program to check on the resurgence of key migratory species, and even has a “Live Fish Cam” you can bookmark by clicking here.

The 2010 fish passage season at the Fairmount Fishway was a record-breaking year, with 2,521 American shad ascending the fishway. This was the highest ever recorded and more than seven times greater than passage numbers prior to the renovations.  Hickory shad, listed as a state endangered species in Pennsylvania, also showed an increase in passage and exceeded all previous records.  In addition to migratory species, fish passage for key resident species, such as walleye, topped previous marks and was more than three times greater than pre-restoration.

Learn more about the Fairmount Dam Fishway by clicking here.

About the Author: Brian Hamilton works in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support at Region 3. He helps manage the Healthy Waters Blog, and assists in reviewing mining permits and does other duties as assigned. Brian grew up in Central Pennsylvania. He has worked for the EPA since July 2010.

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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Home, Sweet WaterSense-Labeled Home!

By Elona Myftaraj
homesweethome

Here in the U.S., the U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that by 2013 over 36 states will face water shortages.  So, WaterSense, a voluntary partnership program led by the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to improve water efficiency in new as well as existing homes.

In 2008, WaterSense launched the new homes program to reduce residential water use (a large portion of the total water use in the United States) both indoors and outdoors in new homes when they are built. With the WaterSense certification, houses can start off on the right foot and conserve water from the get-go, rather than going through more expensive retrofits later.

Compared with conventional design, WaterSense homes can save more than 10,000 gallons of household water use per year.  And these are relatively minor changes, like WaterSense toilets and faucets, and Energy Star appliances… nothing as extreme as being without indoor plumbing.  Find out more about what constitutes a WaterSense-certified home by checking out the specs here. Saving water does not have to be a painful process.  Simply choosing WaterSense labeled products instead of conventional models, fixing leaks, and avoiding peak water use periods helps a great deal.

If your family is thinking of investing in a new home, consider WaterSense in your plans!  Use this search tool to find builders that are WaterSense partners in your state.  Not planning on building a new house at the moment?  Learn how to make your existing home more water efficient.  Wherever you live, share the steps you are taking to be more water efficient in your home in the comments section!

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 Real Worth of Water

By Elona Myftaraj

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

– Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746.

waterfaucetThere are approximately seven billion people in the world and I am just one of those people. Born in one of the poorest countries in the world, Albania, I know what it feels like to have no direct access to clean drinking water.  My family had to climb mountains for hours every weekend in order to fill up huge buckets, barrels and bottles with clean, fresh water in order to meet our basic needs. The Earth’s surface is covered with over 70% of water; however something many may not be aware of is that less than 1% percent of that water is clean enough to be used for human needs.

How much water do think you use each day? Estimates vary, but the average U.S citizen uses 158 gallons (600 liters) of water every day.  To think of it another way, multiply that 158 gallons per day of use by the 311,763,576 million people living in the U.S., and then consider the rest of the world…

Plus, 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more each day (for example, a showerhead leaking 10 drips per minute wastes enough water in a year to run a dishwasher 60 times). The amount of water leaked from U.S. homes could exceed more than one trillion gallons per year. That’s equivalent to the annual water use of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined!

Closer to home, retrofitting just 20% of households in the Mid-Atlantic with water-efficient fixtures could save more than 65 billion gallons of water and more than 215 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually—that’s enough water to supply Philadelphia residents for more than seven months and enough electricity to power 243,000 households for one month.

That comes to my main point of thought:  there is a limited amount of clean water to go around, and a constantly increasing population that demands it.

What is EPA doing to help us conserve this crucial resource? Tune in next week to find out!

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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