water consumption

Save Water and Collect Rainwater!

A Great Idea

As society becomes more aware that our natural resources are being depleted faster than they can renew themselves, we have come up with more ways to conserve and protect them. Have you ever considered collecting rainwater and putting it to good use? Think about every private and public property in the city. Now think about how much water each of those properties use. That’s a lot of water, isn’t it? Now try to imagine every single one of those properties collecting rainwater and using it for some of their water needs. Imagine how much of our municipal water source would be conserved. I know that it’s a stretch to think about every single property in the city collecting rainwater, but I think it’s possible for a rainwater harvesting movement to start with more homeowners in the city.

An Inside Look to Round Rock’s Water Usage

As our city grows, our water use does too. Have you ever wondered how much water is withdrawn from our water source (Lake Georgetown) in one day? According to the City of Round Rock Water Production Report, in August (one of the hottest summer months) produced a daily average of 28.1 million gallons of water.  Lake Georgetown supplies water to Georgetown, Round Rock, and Brushy Creek MUD. Think about those three cities water use in one day all together…

Some might ask, “Why would I collect rainwater and what would I use it for?”

Ways to use collected rainwater

  • Water landscape (via hand watering or hooking up to irrigation system)
  • Water gardens
  • Water indoor plants
  • Washing cars
  • Household cleaning

Some more complex uses

  • Refilling pools, fountains, or bird baths
  • Washing clothes (if connected)
  • Flushing toilets (if connected)

Benefits of rainwater harvesting

The benefits of collecting rainwater are countless, but here are just a few to get you thinking about how it could directly affect you.

  • Non-chlorinated water is better for plants and landscapes
  • Reduces erosion on properties
  • Reduces rainwater runoff that would be contaminated
  • It can be used as a backup water source for emergencies
  • Reduces demand on municipal water sources
  • Reduced water bills because rainwater is FREE
  • It uses simple technologies
  • Easy to install
  • There’s a rebate from the City!  https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/rebates/

Something to think about

Here in Texas the weather can be a little strange to say the least. One month we could have large amounts of rain and the next could be completely dry. Just think about this past spring of 2019. It rained a total of 17.4 inches, averaging about 4 inches a month. (March-June) Then in July it felt like it just stopped raining and we started heading towards drought conditions. During the hot and dry summer months (July-September) it rained a total of 1.56 inches of rain.

Half of Williamson County is in severe drought as I’m writing this. We aren’t under any water restrictions, but it’s scary to think about the water usage and replenishing ratio. As it gets hotter and dryer here in central Texas, a lot of homeowners start watering their lawns and plants more. I mean nobody wants their lawns and plants to die! Thankfully, this fall has brought down some temperatures and brought us some rain.

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Picture this

This is an example of how much water a common house would use for irrigation. In this scenario, I will be using the average lawn size for a home in Texas.

Front and backyard lawn total- 7,552 sq. ft

A lawn needs about 1 inch of water (0.623 gallons) per square foot during summer months.

So that means I must multiply the 1 inch of water (0.623 gallons) by the amount of square feet there are in that lawn.  7,552 X 0.623= 4,705 gallons

If I water twice a week, that’s 9,410 gallons per week!

Now think about some of those huge commercial properties that have a lot of land to water.

Each number is in thousands of gallons. Click here for more information

How much water can be collected?

Some might ask, “will I even be able to collect enough water for actual usage?” or “would this really make an impact?”.  According to the Texas Water Development Board, for every inch of rainfall that falls on a 2,000 square foot roof, the rainfall collection yields to about 1,000 gallons.

Here’s an example of how much water you could collect during a rainy spring to use during a dry and hot summer.

Rainfall amounts from (March-June 2019) reached 17.40 inches in Central Texas.
According to the US Census, the average home in the US South is 2,392 square feet.

You will get 0.623 gallons (1 inch of water) for one square foot of your roof

2,392 X 0.632= 1,490 

1,490 X 17.4= 25,926 gallons

25,926 gallons of water collected during spring. If you wanted, you could use all that rainwater instead of your irrigation for a whole month! It would be especially helpful if the city were to go on mandatory water restrictions during a drought.

Collecting Rainwater can be simple!

Whether you are going to DYI or buy a container for storing rain, there are three basic components of a rainwater harvesting system.

  1. Catchment area- roof (impervious cover) that catches rain.
  2. Conveyance system- transporting rainwater from catchment area to storage (gutters and downspout)  
  3. Storage- container for storing rainwater. You can attach a rain barrel to your home’s downspout.

There are great guides to installing rainwater harvesting systems

The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting from the Texas Water Development Board to learn how to install your own rainwater harvesting system.

American Rainwater Catchment Association

Collecting rainwater is a great way to help save the most precious natural resource, water. It also will help YOU save money! The benefits are endless, and you will be doing your part to help protect Earth.

 

 

 

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.