Replacing those water hogs with more conservative models

Kathy Hill helps Danny Waller fill out the paperwork to receive

DeAnne Ghoreishi just wanted to know that she was doing her
part. She and her husband Ardy had already replaced their shower
heads with water-saving fixtures, put an Energy Star-rated washer
and dryer in their garage and replaced the vintage home’s toilets
with newer models, but they wanted to be sure they were doing all
they could, both to conserve and to save a little bit of extra
money around the house. But where?
DeAnne Ghoreishi just wanted to know that she was doing her part. She and her husband Ardy had already replaced their shower heads with water-saving fixtures, put an Energy Star-rated washer and dryer in their garage and replaced the vintage home’s toilets with newer models, but they wanted to be sure they were doing all they could, both to conserve and to save a little bit of extra money around the house. But where?

Enter Jerry De La Piedra and Tom Hargett of the Water Wise Health Call Program, a service of the Santa Clara Valley Water District that is also offered in San Benito County. The program allows homeowners to request a walk-through by trained professionals capable of spotting leaks, poor seals, outdated appliances and usages issues that could lead to water waste. In exchange, they agree to fix any issues inspectors may stumble across.

Ghoreishi’s home, like many older domiciles, was added onto over time.

The oldest portion dates back to the 1940s, while her husband finished their last addition in the 1990s. There’s even a bomb shelter in the back yard.

Hargett checks the home’s water from the street-side meter first, noting whether the small black triangle above the numeral gauge moves.

The numerals count water usage in thousands of gallons while the small metal triangle can alert homeowners to smaller leaks – a 15 to 20 gallon loss per day caused by anything from a leaky sink to a running toilet or a bad diverter in the shower. This one doesn’t move, a good sign.

The average person uses 50 to 70 gallons of water per day, so the Ghoreishis, who have a young son, can have an estimated 150 to 210 gallons of water use per day and still be average consumers.

Showers, washers and dishwashers are among the chief in-home offenders, said Hargett.

To combat the problem, the district began offering rebates on Energy Star-rated washers and dishwashers, and Health Call inspectors replace over-saturating showerheads with water-saving heads.

These include a half-flow lever capable of reducing water flow to allow for reduced water usage during relatively dry shower duties like shaving.

“We measure the flow rate of any faucet,” said Hargett. “We recommend the kitchen be three gallons per minute and the bathroom sink be two gallons per minute. The shower can be around 2.5.”

The inspectors don’t hold homeowners to terribly strict enforcement of the recommended gallon rate because their method of measurement is not always accurate. Basically, a plastic bag is placed under each faucet.

After the faucet has run for five seconds, the inspector uses lines marked on the side of the bag to determine the per minute usage of the spigot.

“Basically, our method is pretty crude,” said Hargett.

It gets a lot more sophisticated when they step outside though. Hargett tests the sprinkler system, doing a visual check of the area each quadrant covers, the condition of the sprinkler heads and their ability to perform.

This is where Ghoreishi stumbles. Her home has too many sprinkler heads, some of which don’t get enough water pressure to pop up from the ground entirely and are thus flooding her marginal grasses while leaving the centers unwatered.

In some areas the sprinklers also point the wrong direction or have been damaged in another way. The sidewalk gets plenty of water.

“Most people don’t turn their sprinklers on during the day,” said De La Piedra. “They just have them set to come on late at night or really early in the morning, so they might be surprised at what’s going on. We had this one guy who’s bill shot up by thousands of gallons. Turned out one of his sprinkler heads had been broken. He had a fountain in the back of his yard and didn’t even know it.”

For Ghoreishi, all that’s required is a little cleaning of the sprinkler heads.

Hargett resets her water timer and, with water measurements collected from her yard, uses a computerized algorithm to determine her water usage for a green yard through the spring.

For more information on how you can schedule a visit by the Water Wise Health Call Program, call the water district at (888) HEY-NOAH or visit www.HeyNoah.com. For more information on water-saving tips and other services, like upcoming toilet exchanges, call (831) 637-4378 or visit www.wrasbc.org.

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