15 March 2011

US EPA WaterSense Program: It's "Fix a Leak" Week!

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to be getting so little respect these days, with massive budget cuts threatened by Congress and enormous political, institutional and industrial opposition to its very purposes in regulatory enforcement.  So, in honor of the EPA's WaterSense partnership program and "Fix a Leak" Week (14 - 20 March), besides pointing out their cute little water-drop mascot now wielding an adjustable wrench and all gung-ho to spiffy-up your plumbing system, I thought I'd lighten the mood with a brief flashback to our childhood before getting to the facts. 

So many of us remember the childhood "beginner book" A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer, illustrated by P.D. Eastman, and published in 1961.  A kid gets a fish, overfeeds it, and it just grows and grows and grows.  He moves his fish to bigger bowls, vases, cook pots, eventually the bathtub, which overflows sending the kid and fish down the stairs in a flood that lands them in the basement.  From there they are rescued, and the kid suddenly thinks to put the fish in a community pool where it proceeds to grow more and crowd everyone else out, before returning to his original size with some magical help from the pet store owner.  Kid learns his lesson about overfeeding, life returns to normal.  Ah, kids' books...

So it turns out that the author, Helen Palmer, was wife to none other than Theo. LeSeig, a pseudonym for the great Ted Geisel (LeSieg, nearly spelled backward), a.k.a. Dr. Seuss!  And to top it off, A Fish Out of Water seems to have been derived directly from one of Dr. Seuss' early magazine works called Gustav the Goldfish, a copy of which has been brought to the light of post-modern day by the good people at 1stEdition.net from the June 1950 issue of Redbook:

The illustrations are just classic Dr. Seuss, even though the story (as much of his early work) is in prose instead of his later signature and syncopated rhyming style.  I love the image of the overflowing bathtub carrying kid and fish down the waterfall of stairs - classic kid mayhem!  Anyway, it remains a precautionary tale.  Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth!  Take shorter showers!  Fix your leaks!  And most importantly: "When you feed a fish, never feed him a lot.  So much and no more!  Never more than a spot, or something may happen.  You never know what.”

And so I'll bring us back to the EPA WaterSense program.  In addition to the requisite Facts and Figures on water wasted by leaking pipes and faucets every year, the official website linked above contains lots of good information including "How to Fix a Leak" and numerous Educational Resources for families and teachers.  Of great use (I think) is a link to the EPA's WaterSense for Kids program, a playground of cartoons and familiar images and games that will help grow a little water-police-person right in your own home!  Hey, I have one, so should you...

Among the most relevant statistics on leaky water systems:
  • "The amount of water leaked from U.S. homes could exceed more than 1 trillion gallons per year. That's equivalent to the annual water use of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined."
  • "Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day." 
  • "Common types of leaks found in the home include leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. All are easily correctable. In most cases, fixture replacement parts don't require a major investment and can be installed by do-it-yourselfers." 
  • "A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year. If your toilet is running constantly, you could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day." [emphasis mine]
  • "An irrigation system should be checked each spring before use to make sure it was not damaged by frost or freezing."
  • "To ensure that your in-ground irrigation system is not leaking water, consult with a WaterSense irrigation partner who has passed a certification program focused on water efficiency; look for a WaterSense irrigation partner." [link preserved from original]
All great advice in general, for everyone from renters (apartment or home) to landlords and home-owners.  Check for leaks, fix what you can, get someone to check and fix what you can't do yourself, and save tons of water and money as a result!

1 comment:

Patrick said...

1,500 apartments managed by the K&D Group in Willoughby OH reduced their overall water usage by more than 25% just by replacing the toilet flapper valves with One2flush dual flush valves. They're saving tens of thousands of dollars a year. Instead of replacing leaky flappers with flappers the EPA should be recommending ways to save even more. www.one2flush.com or at any hardware store for around $30.