The Value of Water

MP900444789What is water worth to you?

Water is essential to life. From quenching our thirst to producing food, manufacturing goods and enabling transportation, water is essential to every aspect of life. Public works companies place a dollar value on your usage, but is that the true value of water?

In America, more than 176 gallons of water are used per day to support a variety of activities such as food and drink production and cleaning. In fact, water is used to produce more than 50% of the food we eat and beverages we drink, making it essential to maintaining the quality and quantity of food available for consumption. In the home, more than 90% of the water used goes down the drain from activities such as showering, flushing a toilet and washing clothes. On top of that is the water lost through leaking pipes in and around your home.

While many think the world has a never-ending, abundant water supply, research shows that many areas of the world are already experiencing significant drought. In the U.S., California is one area that has been experiencing the most severe drought on record, with little relief in sight. However, the drought in California affects more than just those in the area since this state produces a significant amount of fruits and vegetables.

“The drought in California does have the potential to impact the price we pay for fresh fruit and fresh vegetables and dairy and fresh eggs we pay at the counter,” U.S. Department of Agriculture economist Annemarie Kuhns said in an article for CNN. “We are not sure what the exact impact will be.”

Protecting water sources can be simple and can start right in your community. Researchers at the Value of Water Coalition estimate that 1.7 trillion gallons of drinking water are lost every year to faulty, aging or leaky pipes. When you add in leakage from sewer and stormwater pipes, that rises to 6 trillion gallons! With more than 300,000 water main breaks occurring every year, the time is now to take action and become a proactive community.

“This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in an April 2015 article, while standing on a dry area normally covered by heavy snow.

In many areas, city leaders are realizing the importance of improvements to infrastructure, which generate $6 in a return on investment for every $1 spent. In addition, to assist homeowners, communities are partnering with programs that support water conservation and reduce ground pollution, like the Service Line Warranties of America Program. Offered at no cost to the city, this program provides homeowners with a low-cost solution to protect themselves from the potentially high cost of repairing or replacing broken or leaking water and sewer lines on their property. Even just preventing leaks and breaks from becoming major problems can have a direct impact on your community – especially for areas prone to drought.

Protecting our precious water supply requires a concerted effort on all fronts. Public infrastructure investment at the local and national levels are critical, but a commitment by every citizen to water conservation is also required. The time is now to place a real value on water – life’s most precious resource.

Do you need a permit for home improvement projects?

The answer: possibly. When homeowners are wrapped up in home improvement projects, it’s easy to forget that a permit might be needed to complete certain projects – even when they’re on your private property. Visit your municipality’s website or planning office, tell them what you’re thinking about doing and inquire as to what your options are before hiring an architect or designer. You might also want to bring with you a Google Maps aerial photo and sketches or blueprints of your home. Each local government is permitted to create their own laws and regulations for projects such as:

  • Demolishing a load-bearing wall
  • Changing the house’s roofline
  • Altering the footprint of your home
  • Installation of new electrical wiring or replacement of existing wiring (like knob and tube)
  • Installation of a fence
  • Installation of pools (including above-ground)
  • Installation of decks
  • Any work involving plumbing lines
  • Additions
  • Garages
  • Sheds

While the above are all major home improvement projects, even minor projects require permits and possibly inspections such as:

  • Installation of fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and inserts
  • Electrical circuits and service
  • Exterior doors, windows and skylights that require a new opening
  • Cutting down a tree
  • Installation of major shrubbery/landscaping

In addition to permits, if you hire a contractor to perform the work, be sure the company/contractor meets all current license requirements for the state, county and municipality in which the work will be completed. This information is easily obtained online through websites like the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General. Ask the contractor to see the licenses, which they should provide willingly along with references.

The best advice for homeowners is before embarking on a home improvement project, contact your municipal planning office to determine if permits are needed and if the contractor you are considering for the project has valid local licenses. Often, the planning office staff can provide a recommendation on a reputable contractor based on project type.


Simple water conservation tips for inside and outside the home

iStock_000003907033MediumUS water sewer service providerMany areas of North America have been plagued by severe drought in recent years. On the west coast, areas such as California are facing the worst drought they’ve ever seen.

Water conservation is important for every community, regardless of whether you live in a drought-stricken area or not. While many homeowners are forced to let their beautiful landscape turn brown in favor of water conservation, experts encourage homeowners to keep their trees alive because they provide so many benefits. Trees help improve air quality, provide shade and create a habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately, they also require a significant amount of water to survive.

Check out these helpful tips on how you can conserve water in your home.


  • Don’t bag grass clippings. They help cool the ground and retain moisture.
  • Use a rain barrel to harvest rainwater for plants.
  • When replacing landscaping, choose plants native to your climate that need less water.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean patios, walkways and driveways.
  • Use a few inches of mulch around plants to help retain moisture.
  • Group plants with the same watering needs together.
  • Bathe pets in an area of your lawn that needs watering.
  • Let grass grow a little taller to help retain moisture.
  • Don’t water on a windy day as the water will blow away or evaporate.


  • Don’t run the water when washing dishes by hand. Fill one sink with soapy water and the other with rinse water.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food.
  • If you drop ice cubes, throw them on a houseplant instead of in the sink.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water and then use it to water your plants.
  • Have a plumber re-route your greywater to trees and plants rather than the sewer line. Check with your city and county for codes.
  • Keep your shower to under five minutes to save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
  • Turn off water when you brush your teeth to save up to four gallons a minute.
  • Avoid water toys that require constant flow of water.