high water use

5 Signs You’re Watering Too Much

A high water bill may be your first clue that something is terribly amiss. But there are a few other signs that signal you may be overwatering your landscape.

 

Sometimes the biggest water waste happens in perfectly manicured lawns, watering on the correct time and day, with no signs of broken sprinklers or anything wrong.  In such a case, a high water bill may be the customer’s first clue that something’s terrible amiss in the water department. But here are a few signs to watch for — usually in summer, but any time of year if you’re overwatering:

  1.  Cockroaches:If you see cockroaches wandering around shrubs, pots, grasses and the yard in general, you’ve got a perfect habitat for cockroaches — and that means your yard is as wet as the inside of a sewer pipe. Sound gross?

Cockroaches thrive on decomposing plant material. So remember, all that extra water is probably building up as thatch and rotting your grass from below. Other insects that benefit from too much water: pillbugs, millipedes and especially fire ants.

2. Dollarweed:  Dollarweed is one of those plants so tenacious it’s created an industry of big-box weed killers for homeowners trying to get rid of it. Hint: dollarweed requires even more water to look good than grass — so if your grass is drowning in dollarweed, put down the weedkiller and pick up the sprinkler instruction.

3.  Fungus:

Has it been raining? Then look for mushrooms. But if there are still mushrooms in dry, warm winter weather, your lawn is probably staying wet and poorly drained; not a good idea, since in addition to mushrooms, some of the most common fungal turf diseases include take-all patch and brown patch.

4.  Wet walls, fences, and cans:  It’s not just the amount of water you use, it’s where you put it. By some estimates, about one-fifth of summer irrigation water is spent watering side yards, AC condensers, toolsheds and garbage cans — and that’s way too much.  Heads in the side yard can be capped or turned off to reduce watering items that do not need the extra water.

5.  Runoff:  Pools of water are a sure sign the run times are too long on your sprinkler system. If the yard is too steep to hold much water, cycle and soak (watering shorter length of time, but multiple times in a row) may be a better method. Remember, your bedding plants typically need less water than grass.

So remember, use common sense when it comes to your outdoor use.  If things feel or look too wet, reduce the time by 2 minutes to see how it helps the problems.  Wait at least a week before making more changes.

Read Your Water Bill

front of water bill

I want to ask you a very important question: Do you read your water bill?  No, not just look to see how much you owe; but look at how many gallons you used during the last month?  No?  Not really even sure how?  Or what you’re looking at?  I understand!  I feel that way about my phone bill!!

In this blog I wanted to point out several things to start looking at on your water bill.  Maybe not every month, but at the very least each quarter or each season to check in and see how you are doing with your usage.  This may run long though, so I’m going to break it into a small series of things to look at on your bill.

Today I want to point out what I consider to be THE most important place to start looking at on your monthly bill, because you can’t save water if you don’t even know how much you’re using!  Right?  And then, you’re going to need to know if that amount is a high number or low one.  And what (or how much) is  a “normal” amount of water to use each month?

Of course, I have no exact answer about how much water is “normal.”  The answer depends on several factors, like the number of people in the house and their ages, the age of the home or the age of the appliances (like the toilets, dish and clothes washers, showerheads, and faucets), and whether your house has a water softener.  I’ll discuss this more at the end.

back of water bill

So look on the front of the bill at the little graph that shows the gallons of water used during each of the billing cycles for the last year (note: chances are the billing cycle is not for the entire month, it’s part of one month and part of another).  The x-axis (bottom) shows each month’s usage and the y-axis (vertical) indicates the gallons.  See the upper bill picture, I’ve circled the water use graph in red.  We measure the amount of water used each month in gallons—the same amount as a gallon jug of milk and you are billed by the thousand gallons used.

Another place to look at the amount of water used each month is the back of the bill.  Here is written the actual number of gallons used for the current bill.  See the bill at the bottom, I’ve circled that amount in orange.  The water bill says “total consumption in gallons” and then 12,400 is to the side.  That’s 12,400 gallons used this last billing cycle.

Now, many things can determine how much this number will be, as I’ve already listed a lot of those variables–number of people in the house, age of house and appliances, etc.  I will tell you that here in Round Rock, our average winter bill is for 5,868 gallons and our average summer bill is for 12,252 gallons.  How does yours stack up?

Also on average, we here in Round Rock use 75 gallons of water per person, per day.  Of course, this is average because a baby isn’t going to use that much, yet a teenager may use more!  You could make it easy for yourself and say each person in your home uses 100 gallons each day.  The average billing cycle is 30 days, so that would be 3000 gallons for each person each month.  If you have 2 people in your house that would be 6,000 gallons for your water use would be “normal” or expected.

This number can be greatly reduced by installing low water use (or efficient) fixtures, especially toilets and showerheads since they are used the most and the most often (multiple times a day).  Don’t forget the City has a rebate program for water efficient toilets and clothes washers.  Find out those details at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation   If there was any one thing you wanted to do to reduce the amount of water in your home, I would say replace your toilets.  If your home was built before 2000, I would replace the toilets with newer WaterSense models.  This allows you to save water without changing anything, you’ll still flush the same way.

I will say those efficient appliances really do make a difference.  My family of 4 (2 teenagers and 2 adults) uses right at 3,000 of water each month for all of us.  We installed new WaterSense toilets, showerheads, and a Energy Star dishwasher when we moved in 2 years ago.  Our house was built in 1999.  We don’t have a water softener.  We do have an irrigation system (that’s turn off currently!).  The clothes washer is a front loader that’s about 6 years old.  We do use them all several times each week!  It really is possible to reduce your consumption without it being a chore.

Now pull out those bills and take a look!  Next time I’ll point out a couple more places to look on the bill.

 

Do I Have a Water Leak?

During the hottest parts of the year the phone calls increase with concerns from people asking if they have a water leak, or maybe their neighbor is using their water to fill up their pool.  There’s just no way they had used that much water this past month.  Or the meter reader must have read the meter wrong!  Or the meter is just wrong, or the water lines are crossed because the neighbor waters every day and I don’t and my bill is higher… I think I’ve heard it all!  Rarely do we find anything more than leaks or an irrigation system that is using more water than the homeowner realizes.  Nothing too exciting in the grand scheme of things.

If you think you may have a water leak, then there are simple steps you can take to figure out if you have one, before calling a plumber.  The first thing to do is to locate your water meter.  It is outside, typically near the front property line on one of the sides of your house, near the sidewalk.  The box is rectangular and either has a metal lid or black plastic lid.  If you can, open it up.  Inside the meter box are typically two water meters.  I keep saying usually, because thereWater meter register 200px are always exceptions!  Anyway, your meter is closer to your house, and the other meter is your neighbor’s.

Looking at the face of the meter, there is a hand that sweeps around the face, much like the hands of a clock.  When that hand moves one time around the face that means 10 gallons have been used, or have gone through the meter.  If the hand is moving when you open up the meter, then that means water is currently going through the meter and is being used at your property.  When no water to your knowledge is on at your house, that hand should be perfectly still.

There’s also a small star- or triangle-shaped feature on the face that we commonly call the “leak detector.”  It moves when we often can’t see the hand moving, because it’s a little more sensitive to lower flow water.  If this is perfectly still too, then good, no leak.  If it’s moving, then again, something is using water.

There is also numbers on the face of the meter, like an odometer in a vehicle.  This is the number that gets read every month to calculate how many gallons have gone through the meter.  At the end of the day, before going to bed, you can write down these numbers.  In the morning, before water is used at the house, go read the numbers again.  If they are the same, great, no leak.  If they have changed, then water has been used on the property.  To find out how much water was used, subtract the morning number from the night number.  The answer you get is the gallons that were used.  (i.e.  the meter read 58673 in the morning and 55492 at night.  So 58673 – 55492 = 3181 gallons were used overnight!)  Oh yes, that’s right, my irrigation system went off; that’s how much water it used.

Watch our video to see how to perform this meter check yourself.  Good luck!