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COVID-19: Water Use When We Stay Home

Now that most of us are at home more, you may be wondering “how much more water am I using?” The good news is, it’s probably less than you think. This is because the activities that use the most water  – such as outdoor irrigation, showering and doing laundry – happen at the same weekly frequency regardless if you and the family are spending your days at home or not.

Your water use will increase only slightly

Unlike our use of electricity, which we use continuously as we light our rooms, run our computers or stream shows, our use of water is more intermittent. This means that although we are home the entire time, using water may be limited to bathroom visits, washing our hands, cleaning dishes or doing laundry. This is good news for your water bill.

What about all the handwashing?

Surprisingly, washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds does not use that much water. If you have faucet aerators or a newer faucet, each 20-second hand wash with the water running uses less than half of a gallon. Even still, faucets are responsible for 18% of the typical indoor water consumption. It takes 24 extra handwashing events per day over a 60 day billing cycle to increase your bill by one unit, which equals 748 gallons and costs you $4.98. You can use less water if you shut the faucet off while you soap up your hands, but you don’t have to. Public health is more important than water conservation. Wash your hands and stay safe.

What about additional toilet flushing?

Since you are at home and not at work, you are flushing your toilets more, this is where you may see a slight increase in your indoor use. After all, toilets make up an average of 20% of the typical indoor water consumption. The good news – it takes a lot of flushes to really increase your bill.  The most common toilets in everyone’s homes use 1.6 gallons per flush, while newer toilets use 1.1 gallons per flush or less. It will take 467 flushes of al 1.6 gallon per flush toilet to use one unit of water. Note that older toilets can use 4-6 gallons per flush, and that changes the picture dramatically.

Do not flush ‘flushable’ wipes

It’s also important to note that you should not use your toilet as a garbage can. Do not flush “flushable” wipes, paper towels or disinfecting wipes down the toilet. These items wreak havoc on sewer systems. The last thing any of us need at this time is a backed up sewer.

What about the dishes from extra cooking and snacking?

You may be creating more dishes due to extra cooking and snacking, but fortunately, dishwashing does not use much water either. If you want to use less water, use the dishwasher. Dishwashers recirculate water and are highly efficient, only using 4-5 gallons per load.

Showering and laundry at home

The good news is that even though you and your family are home all day, you’re most likely not showering any more than you typically would. Showers are a larger portion of our indoor consumption, around 21 percent. The same is true for your laundry, which can be around 22 percent of indoor water use. But, not dressing for work each day may reduce your weekly laundry, offsetting increased us of water for other needs.

Our home’s ‘other half’

The big piece that is missing is what we use on our landscapes, and thankfully, this should not change. Outdoor watering is responsible for half of Helix Water District customers’ total use. So, while we may be concerned that being home will increase our indoor use, the largest potential for savings is still outdoors. An irrigation controller has more to do with the typical home’s water consumption than our indoor behaviors. If you have not been outside lately, the soil is still wet and most of us can leave our irrigation controllers in the off position for the time being.

This article was written by Helix Water District Conservation Technician Vince Dambrose, whom is currently working from home to keep his coworkers safe and healthy so that the district can keep your water flowing.

Watching California’s Wildlife Online Surges During Shelter-In-Place

Many nature webcams in California are seeing record traffic and interest this past month, as people bracing against the coronavirus pandemic look for virtual escapes from the doldrums of life indoors.

San Diego Will Build 7 Medians in University City to Settle Pure Water Lawsuit

San Diego has agreed to build seven new road medians in University City at an estimated cost of $1.2 million to settle two lawsuits that sought to block construction of the city’s Pure Water sewage recycling system.

Forty Atmospheric Rivers Have Hit West Coast Since October

More than three dozen atmospheric rivers made landfall on the West Coast from fall through early spring, but a lack of strong events in California led to the development of drought conditions in parts of the state.

An atmospheric river is a thin, but long plume of moisture in the atmosphere that stretches from the Pacific Ocean tropics or subtropics into higher latitudes. They provide a boost to the rain and snow totals produced by storm systems taking aim at the West Coast, mostly from late fall into early spring. Although these events can bring hazardous impacts, they are also beneficial since they help replenish the water supply in the West.

atmospheric rivers-SIO-graphic 2020

The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography studies atmospheric rivers and other extreme weather. Graphic: CW3E Scripps/UC San Diego

Water Utilities May Face Virus-Linked Protective Gear Shortages

Nearly three in four water and wastewater treatment plants are worried about running out of masks, gowns, and gloves to protect workers from the deadly coronavirus, according to a survey of utilities.

The survey, released late Tuesday, reveals that the same proportion of utilities are also concerned about being able to keep workers 6 feet apart at all times to prevent transmission of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The findings are a snapshot of the concerns a subset of the nation’s water and wastewater utilities shared with the nonprofit American Water Works Association, which conducted the survey March 25-30. Responses came from 532 utilities, and the margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

With the nation grappling to keep the coronavirus pandemic in check, clean and safe running water for washing hands and other cleaning has been deemed an essential service.

Water Board Grants Arant Emergency Powers to Maintain Operations

At Monday’s remote meeting of the Valley Center Municipal Water District board, directors approved an Emergency Powers Resolution, granting Gen. Mgr. Gary Arant Emergency Powers for a 120-day period during the current Coronavirus/Covid-19 (virus) Pandemic Event.

The resolution gives Arant the power the modify the ability of the public to access the district office at 29300 Valley Center Rd., “including closing the facility to all public access.”  

Arant is also empowered to “Modify staff duties, work schedules, methods, and locations, including, but not limited to staff working remotely, sheltering at home and responding remotely, responding from on-call status remotely, re-assignment to different divisions and departments, requiring staff to work at different locations at district facilities, requiring staff to reasonably restrict movement and interaction with other staff members, assigned staff duties and responsibilities, and requiring staff to work out of class on a temporary basis.”  

San Diego Will Get Soaked for Sixth Straight Day by Storm That’s Produced Twice as Much Rain as Expected

A Pacific storm that was expected to drop about 1.5 inches of rain along the San Diego County coastline has produced more than twice that much and will continue to wash across the region until Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.

The system arrived in force on Sunday and was supposed to be gone by Wednesday night or Thursday at the latest.

“But it’s been sitting and spitting over us all week”, said Miguel Miller, a weather service forecaster “The models have it moving out pretty quickly on Friday night.”

San Diego International Airport unexpectedly received about 1.50 inches of rain overnight. By 6 a.m. Friday, the airport’s seasonal rainfall total had hit 12.54 inches, more than three inches above average.

Cities are Flouting Flood Rules. The Cost: $1 Billion

It’s a simple rule, designed to protect both homeowners and taxpayers: If you want publicly subsidized flood insurance, you can’t build a home that’s likely to flood.

California Greenlights Massive Klamath River Dam Removal

The largest dam removal project in U.S. history came one step closer to fruition this week, as California issued permits for breaching the four dams on the Klamath River.

Lawsuits Vowed as Feds, California Take Divergent Water Routes

California’s decision to depart from federal regulations when managing its water supplies is causing strife across the water world.

The state recently got a new permit for water delivery operations from its wildlife agency. In the past, that kind of authority came from adhering to federal rules. Now, with a dispute between the state and federal government over water management and endangered species act protections, the state issued its own permit.

Critics of the state’s move say they plan to file lawsuits. Different detractors say the rules are too stringent, or too weak.