water leak

Save Water this Summer

The weather has been hit or miss so far this summer, with very little rain since July.  The City’s water use, as a whole, has doubled since the beginning of July!!  We were using close to 18 million gallons of water per day; now we’re up to 37 million gallons of water per day!  That’s a huge increase (city-wide, our use has doubled) all because of the heat.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say the high temperatures don’t mean we need to crank up the sprinklers.  That would be doing a disservice to our lawns and native plants AND our water source, which is Lake Georgetown.

While we aren’t in any mandatory water restrictions right now, the potential is there.  The lake levels have dropped from 100% full at the beginning of July, to 86% full as I’m writing this (mid-August).  That’s a lot of water reduction in only about 6 weeks!

I’d like to offer you several specific ways to help keep Round Rock’s water use low, so we don’t have to enact mandatory water restrictions.  You don’t have to do them all (however saving water = saving money and saving energy), so I just ask that you do as many as you can!

  1. Fix any and all leaks at your house; this could be a leaking toilet, a dripping faucet, or a pipe leak on the mainline. It could be leaks in the irrigation system.  Yes, there are a lot of places for water to leak from! 
    • The City’s Utility department has dye tablets and Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape) for free in the Utility Billing Office. You can also request a free leak kit from the website here or see all our tips for leak detection at your property at roundrocktexas.gov/leaks
    • You can also view your water use on your city water portal; here you can see your weekly, daily, or hourly water use. You would be able to see if you have a leak if there is constant water use all day, even when you are sleeping or gone.  This isn’t in real time, there’s about a 12-hour delay, but it’s also great way to see how much you are using for different activities.
  2. Do not water more than twice per week. This is crucial to keep your lawn and landscape drought tolerant.  There are exceptions to this, like brand newly installed plants, gardens, plants in pots, but generally speaking, nothing needs  to be watered more than twice per week—some plants even less.
    • The problem with watering frequently is that the plant roots don’t grow long and strong.  They stay short and close to the plant—knowing they do not need to grow, as water will appear every day, or every other day.  Your landscaping goal should be to have a yard that you don’t have to water each summer, right?  Get the plant used to occasional watering, by not watering more than twice per week, and even cutting back to once per week.
    • Another great way to save is to not water if rain is forecast, or it has just rained—especially if it’s rained more than ½ an inch. Keep the water off for at least a week after a good soak.
  3. Is your yard thriving this summer? Looking lush and green and not realizing that it’s been over 100 degrees for weeks?  Does it look like it needs mowing once per week for sure, if not more?  If that’s the case, then I’d say you can reduce your runtimes (minutes) slightly and see if you notice any difference in the yard.  If not, great!  You’ve just reduced your water consumption.  You can try to reduce again, slightly, after a week or two to save some more!  By slightly, I’m talking 2 minutes.  That’s it—it’s not much, will your lawn even notice?    Try it! 
  4. Can you tell when your irrigation system has run because you have water all over your car, or back porch, or running down the street? That’s water is being wasted.  That’s water you’ve paid for, but not getting any benefit from.
    • Adjusting heads is relatively easy.  sometimes over time, the sprinkler heads just move and need some slight adjusting back to spray what they are supposed to spray.  In some cases, you can physically turn the head to face the direction it’s supposed to be spraying (this works best when the system is turned on, so you can see if you’re turning it to the right spot). 
    • Sometimes the head is just spraying water too far—over the landscape and into the street or driveway. We have a nice video that shows how to make that adjustment.  It’s also pretty easy, you just need a small, flat-head screwdriver and be willing to get a little wet! 
  5. Consider a smart controller for your irrigation system, rather than a traditional timer.
    • A smart controller will adjust for the weather, versus the traditional timer that waters every, just because it’s the set day to water, regardless if it is about to rain, or has just rained. The city’s irrigation rebate program may also cover a portion of the cost of a new controller, if it’s a WaterSense labeled controller.
    • Another way to achieve this would be to just water manually, not on a schedule. Actually look at your yard to determine if it looks stressed out (don’t do this during the heat of the day, because of course it will!); look at it first thing in the morning.  Is the grass leave blade upright, green, looking strong?  Then it’s good, no extra water is needed.

If you are going to water your lawn, we ask that you voluntarily stay on your water days; this way if we do go into mandatory restrictions you won’t need to make any changes.

    • For odd addresses, that’s Wednesday and/or Saturday.
    • For even addresses, that’s Thursday and/or Sunday.
    • No automatic irrigation is permitted between 10am – 7pm on any day.
    • Watering by hand allowed any day, at any time.

Need more detailed information about the water restrictions?  Visit the City website’s Drought Restriction page.

 

Winter Wonder, not wasting water!

Winter has come, finally!  It’s already the middle of November and wastewater averaging (WWA) is upon us.  What is wastewater averaging, you ask?  Well, let me tell you…

In the winter months (November, December, January, and February) the City assumes that our water use is lower than any other time of year, simply because it’s cold out, its winter, and we’re not watering our yards.  These are the months when water use is lower thanfrozen_faucet the rest of the year, so the City uses these 3 winter billing cycles (Nov-Dec, Dec-Jan, and Jan-Feb) to determine how much we’re going to be charged for wastewater (aka sewer) for the rest of the year.

See, the City doesn’t have meters on the wastewater line coming out of your house; so, essentially, we make an educated assumption that all water being used is going down the drains at your houses.  Since no water is being used outdoors. (Right? Turn off those sprinkler systems!)  All water is being used indoors for necessary purposes: baths, showers, toilets, sinks, dish and clothes washers, etc…

So the average of those 3 months water use is what you are charged for wastewater for the remainder of the year.  For example, if you use 5400 gallons on your December bill, 4900 on January bill, and 4500 on February bill then your WWA would be 5400 + 4900 + 4500 / 3 = 4933, which would be rounded to 4900 gallons.  So, for the rest of the year, the most you’ll be charged for wastewater is 4900 gallons!  That’s good!  No matter if your water use goes higher in the summer; the wastewater use is capped at 4900 gallons.

This is a number that is recalculated annually, so if you “mess up” and refill your pool or keep watering that yard the whole winter, you can fix it the next year by keeping the water use down.  But, we want you to save money and water now, so turn off those sprinklers!

Another way to keep water use low in winter is to check for leaks, especially in your toilets.  Watch my video on how to check for leaks and check your toilet to see if it’s efficient.  What I say in the video is that toilets using 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) or less are considered efficient.  I want to add to that a little, by saying that on January 1, 2014, it became state law that all toilets sold in Texas must use 1.28 gallons per flush OR LESS.  So that means, even if you have a 1.6 gpf toilet, you can make it even more efficient, and save more water each time you flush (and reduce those waste water charges further) by upgrading to a new 1.28 gpf toilet!  The City’s water conservation program’s has a rebate program for this upgrade.  Find the details at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

 

We Want to Alert You!

Is there truly ever a time that we enjoy opening bills?  I can’t think of any, except when maybe I’ve just paid off a credit card and am very happy to see the zero balance!  Who wouldn’t enjoy knowing you owe no money that month!?!?  I would love it!high bill

Well, when the opposite happens–opening a bill you thought would be small, but was very high—that can cause a lot of unhappy feelings, stress, anger, confusion—what happened?  Why is this so high?  Why didn’t I know?  Enter applicable emoji faces here.  Ha!

The City is trying to prevent that negative reaction from happening when you open up your water bill each month.  Thanks to the new automated water meters that the Utility Department has installed over the last several years, we can now let you know if you’ve had water running through your water meter without stopping for over 24 hours!  Pretty cool!

Here’s a little history on these new meters:  Back in 2009, we began upgrading the meters from a traditional meter that is read each month (and only once per month) by actual persons that walk the town, street by street, opening up meter boxes to write down that month’s number.  That was pretty inefficient, but the standard practice in the water metering world.  Those new meters installed starting in 2009 were called AMR (automatic meter reading), as a person didn’t have to walk all day and open up these boxes.  Now we could read the meters from the comfort of a car, with this drive-by system, as the meter reads would automatically be uploaded into the computer in the car with the now-mobile meter reader.  This allowed the city to read meters much faster, find meters that weren’t working quicker, prevent mistakes made when manually reading the meter, and provide more water data and information to you (our water customers) about when water is being used at your property.  (You may have seen some of the cool water use graphs we can now access.)

Moving forward, starting in 2015, we upgraded the meters again, moving to an even more automated system where now we don’t even need to drive-by to get the monthly meter reads.  Now, the meters send their reads twice a day to our billing software infrastructure.  This makes us even more efficient in removing vehicles off the road (helping with air quality, saving fuel costs), knowing nearly immediately when meters stop working, having quicker access to water use to help answer questions about why bills may be high, and again, (we’re coming full circle now) let you know if you have a leak registering on your water meter.

We receive an alert from the meter if water has been flowing for more than 24-hours without stopping.  So, rather than finding out a month or so later (when the bill comes in the mail AND you’ve actually opened it), you now may find out within a week that you have some kind of odd water use.  You can start checking things out at your house to prevent that shocked when opening the bill experience!  Maybe it’s an easy-to-prevent toilet leak, a water hose left running, a swimming pool fill stuck open, or unfortunately something worse, but we want you to know about it as soon as possible to prevent damage, save money, and save water! alert word

The leak alerts will primarily be sent in the mail as a postcard, but may be a doorhanger, or an email.  We aren’t able to say what specifically is causing the constant water use, we can only tell you that water is being used continuously at your house.  Hopefully before the end of this year, you’ll also be able to receive this alert as a text message.  More on that coming soon!

Starting this leak alert notification is just another way we are striving to save water as a community and provide the best customer service we can, to you!  I really hope you never get one sent to you—no one wants a leak!  But if you do, you’re welcome!

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!