Those in drought check your water meters...

jacqueline9CAFebruary 1, 2014

We only get our water bill every two months, which is very annoying. Anyway, they are threatening serious rationing as of April 1, so my DH and I were starting to get ready for that. I wanted to check the water meter now and in a few weeks, so we would have an idea of how much water we are using now. Sure enough, when we did it was moving slowly. Checked all of the water inside and out, and nothing was on. My DH figured out that it was outside, which meant a leak in the irrigation system (which I have been turning on for 2 weeks and off for 2 weeks lately). Drat!

Nothing was visible, so he started digging around each cluster of the thingies that control the irrigation. Three hours later, and 18 inches under the ground, he found an area that kept filling up with clear water after he sucked it out with an industrial vacuum. Clue! Long story short, two days and several more hours of digging alongside a plumber, they found the leak. They had thought it might have been in our main water supply line (109 years old), between the meter and the first valve, but thank heavens it wasn't. That would have required replacing the entire line, which is 60 feet long and runs all the way from the street, under the sidewalk, under the entire front garden, and then under all of our house - very expensive. Turned out the leak was in a section of abandoned but pressured side line which they were able to cap. So, we did an experiment with a hose and a bucket to reproduce the amount the water meter had been moving - turned out to be 480 gallons per 24 hours - YIKES! No wonder our last water bill was so high! I had been blaming it on the fact that the winter rates are way higher than the summer ones, but looked at the bill and the gallons were too high also. The water company is sending me a form to fill out to get a rebate - we will see how that works. Theoretically they will rebate the an estimate (theirs, of course) of the overpayment due to a leak, once you can prove (the plumber's bill works) that you have fixed it. We shall see, although right now they are being way more cooperative than usual, because they really do want people to find and fix leaks. Pic of the mess - the main line was 2 feet down, and above it were several side lines taking off from it.


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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Excellent story.

That tree behind the leak must have been really, really happy.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 12:31PM
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anntn6b(z6b TN)

And the tree's going to be po'ed to the max.

If you have one of the rought iron things that's used to turn off water at a water main, if you know how, you can listen at the end of that to tell if water is running through the pipe it sits on. We learned that from the Sewage and Water Board crews in New Orleans who used it to search for water leaks (in a two hundred year old system in on the street where we lived).

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 3:04PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

We have a 1/4 turn ball valve on the irrigation line that you can see from the dining room to make sure nothing gets left on over night.

I know we have three leaky hose bibs I need man help in replacing. For now I have put hoses on them and then soaker lines. But they will have to get fixed asap.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 3:49PM
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OK, I must admit it - that is not a tree in the picture - it is a tree stump. There was a huge (at least 5 stories tall) eugenie tree there, but it was cut down in 2011. It completely obliterated the view of the front of our house from the street, and was shading out all of the front garden, including 10 old OGRs, so it went. Roses happy now. We kept the stump to put a very large pot (it is 2/1/2 ft in diameter and 18 inches high) on the stump, in which I planted trailing petunias - it looks great. So, don't
worry about the tree being happy or unhappy.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 3:57PM
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Holy cow, Jackie. That one leak would be about 19 ccf per month (1 ccf = 748 gallons, the unit by which we are charged for water), which is more than half my water bill during the height of summer. In extremis (August, September), we use 35 ccf per month for this 1/3 acre with 90 roses, fruit trees and berries that are surrounded by landscaping that gets little or no summer irrigation. I consider 35 ccf on the extravagant end; can be reduced to 30 ccf with a bit less bloom and a little more PM and other blemishes on the roses, and I suppose I may be cranking it down lower than that this year.

I pulled all the existing PVC pipe irrigation system in place when we moved here 12 years ago because it was old and I thought it couldn't be trusted (not to mention it made no sense -- irrigating CA natives along with everything else -- not to mention that the previous owner's water bills were astounding) and replaced it with weeper hoses -- a bit more work, but at least I can see leaks and other problems.

I'm glad you found it -- what an expense!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Besides reducing the number of roses, my big push for getting ready for water rationing is to switch from spray irrigation to drip. Tom and I will be starting this project in a few days.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 8:46PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Cats, the ccf is very interesting. We have a bit over half an acre and try to use about half of that in the summer. If it is very hot we might go over. Pretty sure we under water about everything so it will be hard to cut back 20%, but I do have a few runs of soaker hoses, so those are the next to go with a drip system.

I made my own manifold system and run the old garden hoses to the like types of plants on the drip. I know I need to do more to move the stone fruit from the citrus because once the stone fruit are of a certain size, I should stop or reduce the watering for flavor.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Congratulations, Jackie! I hope they're going to consider what you've saved in fixing your leak as part of your "voluntary conservation". Kim

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 10:57PM
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Kim - and today it has been raining real rain for 6 hours so far, so we have turned off the irrigation completely - they are going to think we are heroes!

Since we are still probably going to have mandatory rationing effective April 1, I have been harassing the water company to find out what they mean when they say "25% reduction". Reduction over what? This month last year? This 2 months (we only get billed every 2 months) last year? Last month? I finally pried a sort of answer out of them - the answer is that they have not figured out yet what basis they are going to use (which is totally believable!), but it will NOT include any usage in 2014, and will be "an average of prior years", whatever that means.

So, I am hoping that when they announce the mandatory rationing they will have an actual formula.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 12:48PM
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They'll figure out what formula they want to use. When they do, guaranteed it will be skewed to be difficult to achieve and will definitely result in paying much more for much less. Reductions scare me as I have voluntarily reduced my useage of water, natural gas and electricity for the past several years. It's been as much of a budgetary consideration as anything "enviornmentally minded". Areas have been abandoned and left to remain bare (easy where there is virtually NO water) and plants which haven't proven their suitability and value are gone. Each bi-montly water bill shows steady percentages of useage reduction. It mimics what happened at work when we continually operated with increasing efficency only to be held to the same percentage of reductions all the others were when cut-backs were announced. The only thing "fair" was to force everyone to meet the same reduction percentages, no matter how lean you've been running. Scary. Kim

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 1:14PM
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Yes - there were immediate complaints along these lines when they first announced that there would be rationing. So, they have now said that households which have used up to 4500 gallons a month in the past (which I think comes out to about 150 gallons per day) will not be subject to further reductions. That solves the apartment dwellers issue, but not those of us who have gardens.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 2:00PM
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seil zone 6b MI

This is a good suggestion even for people not in a drought area. I had a leak underground too that had been costing me money I didn't have.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 2:16PM
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