Scottsdale officials are recommending residents try to lower their water consumption this winter by fixing leaks and reducing irrigation. Officials say the saved water will help reduce individual sewer fee rates.
The typical Scottsdale home uses about 8,000 gallons of potable water per month, said John Ralston, city enterprise finance director. During December, January and February, the city monitors each water customer’s average consumption, using that figure to establish monthly sewer bills for the year.
“We look at what our customers use during that period and 90 percent of that is used to establish the sewer charge,” Ralston said.
The average sewer bill for a typical Scottsdale home runs about $21 a month, Ralston said.
In the last fiscal year, that meant $31.9 million in sewer fee revenue for the city.
But some issues — like refilling a swimming pool, heavy irrigation, and leaky pipes, faucets and toilets — can inflate a customer’s average monthly water consumption, leading to higher sewer bills, Ralston said.
“There are some situations that cause abnormally large water use that doesn’t go down the sewer,” he said.
The main reasons for large fluctuations in outdoor water use involved emptying and refilling pools — some can hold up to 20,000 gallons — and landscaping irrigation, Ralston said.
“There’s always a certain amount that occurs as irrigation systems age and things fail,” he said.
Christina Klien, city water conservation coordinator, said homeowners may not need to use as much water for irrigation during cold and rainy months.
“The biggest place where you can try to reduce your water use is on landscaping because you don’t need a lot of water use in the wintertime,” she said.
Fixing leaky toilets can aggregate a savings of 4,000 gallons of water a day, according to a city tip sheet on water conservation, while slow-dripping faucets can lose up to 5,000 gallons a month.
“Some leaks can end up having a lot of water loss,” Klien said.
Ralston said if residents plan for an extraordinary event that distorts what the average monthly water use volume might normally be, such as filling a pool, they can complete a sewer usage fee adjustment form.
City officials will then deduct that event’s water use total from their sewer fee rate calculations. New sewer fees will take effect in July.
For the last several years, city officials have been attempting to reduce the loss of potable water from the municipal system. Nearly 2 billion gallons of water disappeared from the system in 2006 — somewhere between the city’s water production facilities, scattered throughout town, and the roughly 87,000 customer water meters.
More than 7.3 percent of the 26.5 billion gallons of city-produced water went “unaccounted for,” according to the city’s Water Resources Department, potentially costing the city millions of dollars in drinking-water fee revenue.
Officials have attributed the loss to old and inaccurate meters, broken waterlines and leaks during the course of the year, and unauthorized uses, such as opening fire hydrants without permission.
The city has managed to cut the amount of unaccounted-for water by nearly half since 2003, when losses totaled more than 13 percent.
The City Council recently approved a $50,000 contract with consultants Malcolm Pirnie Inc. to monitor water meter usage and accuracy in hope of further cutting the losses, and to prioritize meter replacements.
• Discover possible leaks by checking the water meter reading, then, without using any water, rechecking it two hours later. If the second reading is higher, you may have a leak.
• Determine how much water is being used for irrigation or filling the pool by checking the meter before and after use.
• Instead of looking for puddles or soggy spots in the yard to spot leaks, look for areas of lush grass, unexpected vegetation or dark spots on the ground resulting from fungus growth.
• Put a few drops of food coloring in toilet tank and monitor to see if any water seeps out. If so, replace the flapper valve and/or the rubber gasket at the bottom of the tank.
• Check flow regulators on water softeners, filters, water heaters, and automatic pool fillers to ensure they don’t stick open.
• Make sure automatic sprinkler timers are not set for periods too long or too often.
• Watering lawn during the coolest and calmest part of the day minimizes water loss due to evaporation and wind.
• If using an evaporative cooler, install a recirculation pump to save as much as 500 gallons of water per day.
• Scottsdale sewer usage fee adjustment forms are available at www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Asset10142.aspx or by calling (480) 312-5685.