August is  both National Water Quality Month and the start of fall wildfire season. Although the easiest connection to make between water and fire is that water extinguishes flames, when it comes to our water delivery systems, the two actually have a much more complicated relationship. In more recent years, the EPA has turned its attention to how wildfires can have a lasting impact on future water quality.

Active wildfires are only the beginning

It is no secret that fires have gripped the state of California for the last several years and often reach national attention. Although naturally occurring fires contribute to forest maintenance, the majority of the largest and most destructive fires in California history have been on this side of the 2000’s – with names like the 2018 Camp Fire and 2020 Bobcat Fire remaining chilling to this day. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) reports that the state’s extended drought conditions, as a “direct result of climate change,” have lowered moisture levels, increased the risk for wildfires and continue to prolong the wildfire season, in its “2022 Fire Season Outlook” report.

This past June, the Union Fire burned 110 acres in Jurupa Valley – part of the Santa Ana River Watershed. The visual of active flames is often what we see in the media, and when they are put out, the immediate danger to threatened homes and businesses, trees, vegetation and wildlife eventually fades.

It’s always a relief when fires are extinguished. But from a water perspective, “that’s when all the problems start,” hydrologist Kevin Bladon of Oregon State University explained to the Los Angeles Times.

Aftermath of wildfires can pose a challenge for years

As California continues to experience longer wildfire seasons, the extreme unpredictability of where – and how much – wildfires will burn poses a serious challenge for water suppliers. As the United States Geological Survey notes, “Wildfires increase susceptibility of watersheds to flooding and erosion and can have both short- and long-term impacts on water supplies.”

Vegetation that normally holds soil in place is burned away, and in the months and years following a wildfire, rainfall on the burned area can pollute water supplies, putting an immense strain on water treatment plants to safely remove excessive sediment, nutrients, dissolved carbon, major ions and metals. These accommodations can cost in the tens of millions, potentially shutting down treatment plants, and forcing water suppliers to find alternative supplies. For ecosystems and endangered aquatic life, the contaminated water can spell disaster.

Wildfires can also change the timing and amount of snowmelt runoff, causing floods and unreliable water supply levels in reservoirs. To meet the needs of their communities, agencies may be forced to supplement water from a variety of other expensive sources.

Ensuring water is safe and reliable

Thankfully, SAWPA and its partners are always working to ensure your tap continues to be a source of safe, fresh and clean drinking water. In addition, they have been taking steps to minimize the destructive force of wildfires for years. Here’s how:

Water quality reports: Your water supplier tests the water that flows through your tap hundreds of times each year. In the event of changing raw water quality, agencies coordinate water sourcing and treatment processes to ensure it is always top quality and continues to meet both federal and California standards. In addition, the Safe Drinking Water Act requires all public water systems to provide customers with a yearly update on their tap water quality. Visit your water agency’s website or contact them to review your water quality report.

Forest management: In the Western region of the U.S., 65% of fresh water originates in forested watersheds, according to the EPA, which face the danger of wildfires. Bringing it closer to home, 30% of land in the Santa Ana Watershed is National Forest land. In light of this, SAWPA partnered with the Cleveland and San Bernadino National Forests to form “Forest First,” which secured millions to fund forest management programs that keeps destructive wildfires at bay.

Expanding water reliability: SAWPA’s member agencies continue to invest in infrastructure and programs to diversify water sources. The Groundwater Replenishment System, a joint project between the Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District, is a locally-controlled facility that purifies up to 100 million gallons of recycled water each day – enough to meet the needs of nearly 850,000 residents.

Water is the source of all life – supporting our families, animals, agriculture, the economy and more. Keep these tips in mind to help protect our most precious resource from wildfires:

  1. Avoid any activities that involve fire or sparks when in hot, dry and windy weather.
  2. Extinguish fire pits and campfires and report unattended ones.
  3. Build campfires in an open location and far from flammables.
  4. Regularly maintain your equipment and vehicle.
  5. Check conditions and regulations before you use fireworks or consider safe alternatives.

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As Californians faced the driest January-March period in the state’s recorded history this year, new research shows the drought is more serious than experts thought. The current drought is the driest period in southwestern North America in the last 1,200 years, making it a ‘megadrought,’ according to a 2022 study conducted by UCLA, NASA and the Columbia Climate School.

While the study’s climate models show that human-caused climate change has severely impacted the drought, “The past 22 years would have probably still been the driest period in 300 years (regardless of human actions),” according to Park Williams, UCLA geographer and the study’s lead author.

Not showing signs of stopping, our region’s high temperatures and low precipitation levels continue to wreak havoc on California’s water supply. Two of the largest water reservoirs in North America – Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which both help supply California with water through the Colorado River – reached the lowest recorded levels by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. As dry conditions are likely to continue and fire danger is increasing, it will take advanced conservation and multiple ‘wet years’ to revive our water supply.

Federal, state and local agencies act to conserve water

In response to these historic conditions, federal, state and local agencies have stepped up to slow the impact of the drought and sustain California’s water supply. Last August, federal officials cut California’s allocation of Colorado River water. In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a ‘drought emergency’ and called for a voluntary 15 percent reduction in water use, which was recently increased to 20-30 percent. On June 1, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) began restricting outdoor water use for the approximately 6 million people it serves across Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. MWD and  otheragencies have also invested in water-saving infrastructure and storage to ease the burden. 

This summer, step it up and slow your flow! 

Community support is needed now, more than ever, to help current water supplies last as long as possible. The time is now for Southern Californians to make mindful choices to preserve our most precious resource – water. 

The biggest water savings can be found outdoors. Here are a few drought-fighting ways we can help conserve our water supply:

  1. Convert your yard to drought-resistant landscaping.
  2. Only water your yard, lawn, and outdoor plants once a week.
  3. Reduce evaporation by watering before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
  4. Turn off irrigation during rain and for 48 hours after.
  5. Fix leaks as soon as they are detected.
  6. Use a broom or electric leaf blower to clean driveways, sidewalks and patios instead of spraying with water.
  7. Reduce car wash water waste by using a bucket and a low-flow hose that you can turn off at the handle.
  8. Minimize refilling of pools and spas and cover them on warm days to reduce evaporation.

However you decide to help, the time to do it is NOW. Together, we can make a difference in ensuring water supplies get us through this unprecedented drought. To find information on current water-use efficiency rebates, drought conditions and restrictions, contact your local water provider or visit their websites.

How SAWPA is helping to ease the drought

The more than 6 million people who live in the Santa Ana River Watershed can be encouraged that the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and its members and partners are finding new, collaborative and innovative ways to ease the drought. Programs like the One Water One Watershed (OWOW), Weather Modification (cloud seeding) Pilot Program and Water-Energy Community Action Network (WECAN) are paving the way for Southern Californians to continue having access to safe, clean and sustainable tap water.

You can learn more about these programs and SAWPA’s drought actions on the Drought Response page.


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Get ready to save money on your water bill and feel good about making your home as water efficient as it can be. During this time of drought, every drop counts!  

Did you know that the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and its member agencies offer a variety of water saving resources and rebates that you can benefit from? You’ll cut your water bill substantially while preserving our most precious resource during this historic drought. Here’s how:

Consider turf replacement:

You can reduce water use up to 60% by removing turf and converting your yard to a drought-tolerant landscape. You’ll also increase curb appeal while promoting water savings! Rebates can be as much as $5 per square foot depending on your local water supplier.

Removing turf grass is one of the most water-conscious adjustments a homeowner can make to reduce their water usage and associated costs. Converting irrigation systems to drip, hand-watering or installing water efficient micro-spray systems or rotating nozzles ensures that landscape watering is as efficient as possible. Plus, the addition of a new, sustainable watering system works to reduce or prevent wasteful runoff through the use of a rainwater capture or filtration system.

Check out the SoCal Water $mart Turf Replacement Program to see if you are eligible to participate in the program or call SoCal Water$mart at 888-376-3314.

Be flush and wash savvy:

Together, toilets and clothes washers account for approximately 45% of the water used inside your home. Replacement of your inefficient clothes washer and/or toilets will likely contribute to substantial water savings.

High-efficiency washers: You can cash in on rebates of up to $350 depending on your local water supplier – check their website for details.

High-efficiency washers use 55% less water than standard washers. They are also more energy-efficient, which may contribute to a reduction in both your water and energy bills. Going shopping to save? Here’s SoCal Water$mart’s list of qualifying high-efficiency clothes washers to consider.

High-efficiency toilets: The largest amount of water used inside your home – about 30% – is used to flush your toilets. But how much water your toilet actually needs to flush properly is less than you think! Water savings from high-efficiency toilets can save over $800 on your water bill over the lifetime of the product. Combine these savings with SoCal Water$mart rebates and premium high-efficiency toilet upgrades can virtually pay for themselves. Rebates can be as high as $250, depending on your local water supplier. Looking into thrones with next-level efficiency? Check out SoCal Water$mart’s list of qualifying toilets.

Make sure your water isn’t going to waste:

Up to 70% of California’s residential water supply is applied to home landscapes, yet many landscapes are overwatered due to sprinkler controllers that are not programmed properly.

Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) offers free landscape evaluation services to help you participate in the Landscapes for Living program. Learn about eligibility requirements for direct installation services of water-efficient equipment by applying here. (Please note that due to high demand, this program is currently on pause and will resume in July.)

Rebates and programs vary depending on your local water service’s offerings. Here are a few resources to dive into:

Keep the conversation flowing by following us on social media and sharing why you trust in tap!

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Demystifying Water Infrastructure Q&A

Water makes its way through rivers, reservoirs, groundwater recharge basins and a labyrinth of water infrastructure before it reaches our homes and is ready for us to simply turn on the tap. From sourcing to treatment, the clean, safe tap water that flows straight to the tap is held to the highest standards.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority’s (SAWPA) regional partners deliver the high-quality tap water that plays a crucial role in our daily lives. This month, we sat down with SAWPA’s Water Resources and Planning Manager Mark Norton for an education session about water infrastructure.

Q & A with Mark Norton

What is exciting about your work in the water world?

I’ve spent 31 years in the water industry and am now involved with the One Water One Watershed (OWOW) program, round tables and task forces. We work together with many agencies, nonprofits, regulatory bodies and communities to implement programs and water infrastructure projects for a sustainable watershed. It is exciting to be part of the big picture and work to ensure people who live here can have access to safe and clean tap water for generations to come.

What is SAWPA’s role with water delivery?

SAWPA is the voice of the Santa Ana watershed. As a joint powers authority, SAWPA covers the service area of our five member agencies and facilitates collaboration between them. We bring many parties together to help our water agencies meet regulations, address concerns and protect resources set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board.

What is a watershed and water cycle?

A watershed is a geographic area that covers the natural drainage of water from a high to low elevation in a cycle. The boundaries of a watershed are typically the highest along mountain ridges at the top, to the lowest point where gravity carries it to a river, lake or reservoir. Once water collects at the lowest point, evaporation occurs and it turns into clouds of water vapor, which create precipitation that falls across the watershed again in a cycle. Thomas Jefferson might have had that same glass of water molecules that you are drinking today. Same with the dinosaurs. There is no new water—it is all part of one big cycle.

What is water infrastructure?

Water infrastructure is a broad topic: it is the vast network of aqueducts, pipes, reservoirs, facilities, and equipment that move water through our watershed, and the programs that help us secure a safe, reliable water supply. It supplies our water, whether by pumping groundwater to the surface, importing water from the California aqueduct, or bolstering snowmelt with our Weather Modification Pilot Program. It helps make our water safe with water treatment plants and facilitates testing. Water infrastructure also makes up the pipelines that deliver water to locations throughout our society – homes, businesses, schools, parks, and even lakes and rivers.

How does water infrastructure help make recycled water safe?

Our water infrastructure treats wastewater with the most stringent treatment process in the industry. It goes through filtration, disinfection (often with ultraviolet light) and reverse osmosis. Although the water has to be tested to ensure it is safe for drinking at that point, it is instead used to recharge groundwater basins. Underground, water is further filtered naturally before it reaches our wells, which are pumped and treated again to become tap water. Because we treat wastewater with multiple barriers, have safeguards in place, and test to EPA standards, it can be trusted as a quality source of water.

What is a common misconception people have about water infrastructure?

A common misconception is that our infrastructure needs to remove every detected thing. We can now detect things in water (constituents) at the parts per trillion nanogram level, which is about one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Even though we can detect to this level, that does not mean we need to remove it. These constituents are already all around us, in things like food dyes, personal care products and soaps. Not only can removing them have adverse environmental impacts and be extremely costly, but just about every constituent you can think of that the EPA regulates will always have a level that is determined safe by long-term epidemiological studies. As technology advances, new regulations can arise. SAWPA helps its member agencies maintain safe levels for our tap water by ensuring these additional regulations are met through grant funding and project administration.

What is SAWPA doing to help keep water infrastructure in shape for smaller agencies?

The water infrastructure that smaller agencies in lower-income communities rely on – such as pumps for wells, water tanks or pipelines – deteriorate over time and might go unreplaced. Because these smaller agencies might not have the needed financial resources or adequate staffing, and do not want to raise rates on low-income customers, their infrastructure can continue to suffer. We recently worked with our member agencies to create a program for nonprofits to reach out to these agencies and help them with grant writing, so the agencies can compete more effectively for grants to fund necessary infrastructure upkeep and produce clean water in their service area. It solidifies the truth that we have one water, in one watershed, and we are all in this together.

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Spring into new water habits with kids

With spring now in full bloom, it’s the perfect time to include kids in the quest to be water-wise as we water our gardens, wash our pets and play in the sprinklers.

Changing a few simple habits can have a significant impact on water consumption. Teaching children to embrace water-wise behavior at a young age can help nourish our communities for generations to come.

Eastern Municipal Water District recently announced the winners of their 2022 poster contest called ‘Water is Life.’ It’s a great representation of how teaching young ones to appreciate the water that flows straight from our taps helps lay the foundation for water-saving tips that can be applied throughout their lives.

View EMWD’s ‘Water is Life’ video here for a snapshot of the winning entries!

Western Municipal Water District is also hosting a ‘Water is Life’ poster contest, and there’s still time to enter through April 15. Children who attend school districts served by WMWD can learn about the contest specifics here.

Get thirsty for H2O knowledge

Hey kids, guess how many gallons the average family of four uses every day in the United States according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency? It’s not 50 gallons, not even 100 gallons, but 400 gallons of water. That’s the equivalent of taking 10 baths a day!

According to the ‘Water: Use it Wisely’ conservation campaign, the most important water saving device is YOU. All it takes is getting familiar with tips and tricks that make being good stewards of our precious tap water a cinch.

Modifying water-wasting behaviors and teaching kids how to have a water-wise mindset can make a significant impact according to the EPA, the ‘Water: Use it Wisely’ campaign and California’s ‘Save our Water’ program.

Follow these 10 water-wise tips to set kids up for success:

  1. Be a leak detective: Hunting for water leaks with kids can be fun! An unexpected high water bill is often the first clue that there’s a leak somewhere in your home. Take the kids on a hunt to inspect outdoor sprinklers, fountains, spigots or pools and indoor faucets, toilets, piping and showerheads.
  • Shower power! A typical shower uses just 10-25 gallons of water, while a bath can use up to 70 gallons. Encourage kids to hop in the shower vs. taking a bath.
  • Shorten your shower: And while you’re in the shower, why not shorten it by a minute or two? Make it a game to see how much time – and gallons of water – you can save! Keep showers under five minutes, and you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Water breaks: Whether kids are washing their hands or brushing their teeth, there’s no reason to leave the water running until they’re ready to turn it back on for a rinse.
  • Hose off your pooch outside: Instead of filling up the bathtub, let the kids wash your pet outdoors in an area of your lawn that needs water.
  • Smart sweepers: Ask your kids to reach for the brooms instead of the hose to help you clean up your driveway and patio while saving water every time.
  • Beat the heat: Get the kids involved in watering the garden first thing in the morning – it’s a great first step to water-efficient landscaping. Avoid watering yards during the middle of the day because most of the water will evaporate before the plants have time to drink it.
  • So mulch better: Work together to pour a layer of organic mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water each year.
  • Sprinkler time: When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your yard needs it most.
  1. Who needs a hose? Washing your car or kids’ bikes with a bucket and sponge instead of a running hose saves a whole lot of water. A hose can waste six gallons per minute if left running. Or better yet, take the kids for a ride through a car wash that uses recycled water.

Water you waiting for?

It’s never too early to get kids involved in learning water-wise tips and tricks that will teach them to become good stewards of our planet’s most precious resource – water!

For more tips on ways to save H2O, visit the EPA’s WaterSense for Kids website. There, you’ll find activity sheets, water-saving tips and this fun WaterSense video game where kids can move the water-efficiency hero ‘Flo’ through water pipes, and answer water-wise questions while avoiding water-wasting monsters.

The Inland Empire Utilities Agency also features fun activities to explore with kids online. Dive into their Water Discovery Activities page for hands-on education opportunities.

Let us know what water-saving strategies work best with your little ones by following us on social media and sharing your stories!

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Trust in Tap

Did you know that the water that flows straight to your tap is safe, environmentally-friendly and cheaper than bottled water?

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and its water-wise regional partners deliver high-quality and safe water to you 24/7 for all your daily uses. From gulping down an ice-cold cup of tap water after a workout to quenching the thirst of your household plants, tap water plays a crucial role in our daily lives.

Take a peek at the benefits of tap water in our new video, and celebrate the fact that you can always ‘Trust in Tap!’

As a regional leader in water, SAWPA thinks outside the bottle to preserve our watershed through strategic planning, regional partnerships, conservation programs and educational opportunities in the region.

Explore these reasons why your tap water is trusted, reliable and safe:

Trust in tap safety

Your tap water undergoes stringent testing and regulations. Your local water agencies and authorities are guided by, and comply with, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. These two Environmental Protection Agency guidelines position public health and environmental safety as top priorities.

Trust in tap sustainability

Tap into your sustainable side and drink with a clear conscience. When thinking tap or bottle, we know which is better for the environment. Be a part of the change to stop the use of single-use plastic bottles which pollute our planet. When you rely on tap water instead of bottled water to quench your thirst, you have the opportunity to fill up a reusable water bottle, which will save hundreds of plastic bottles from becoming pollution.

Trust in tap costs

You also save money when choosing tap water. When you drink from your tap and pay your water bill, you are investing in your local water resources and projects instead of adding profits to a private water bottling company. Our SoCal tap water is sourced through a combination of local groundwater and imported water. This process is more locally sustainable in the face of emergencies and less costly than purchasing water from far away. Additionally, our water delivery infrastructure allows for tap water to flow directly into your home or business.

With so many reasons to trust in tap, we hope you will join us in thinking outside the bottle! To learn more about the safety of your water, visit our water safety page.

Keep the conversation flowing by following us on social media and sharing your water-saving strategies! 

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We Love Water-Wise Landscapes 

Southern California is home to some of the world’s most beautiful plant varieties. Just take a walk down your neighborhood street to explore an eye-candy feast of enchanting flowers, succulents, shrubs and fruit trees. The diverse SoCal ecosystem supplies no shortage of lush landscape options to imagine in your own backyard. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, outdoor water use accounts for an average of 30% of total household water use in the U.S., but that percentage can rise to as high as 60% in arid regions like Southern California.  

Consider this: When the average-sized lawn is watered for 20 minutes every day for one week, that’s the equivalent of running the shower constantly for four days. It’s enough water for the average family to take a year’s worth of showers! You can help curb this water waste by updating your home’s outdoor landscape with native, low maintenance, and water-efficient plants.  

The Santa Ana Water Project Authority (SAWPA) and its member agencies know the high value of cutting back on your outdoor water usage. It benefits everyone by conserving water for future generations and lowering your monthly water bill.  

SAWPA’s member agencies understand that planning and executing a landscape project can be intimidating, costly and challenging. That’s why your SoCal water agencies have plenty of resources, rebates and insider tips to offer as you plan any landscape project.  

So before you roll up your sleeves and get out the gardening gloves – check out this helpful list of landscaping resources provided by SAWPA’s member agencies. Tap into all that is available to support your landscape journey every step of the way.  

Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD)  

Eastern Municipal Water District invites their customers to take advantage of the exciting Landscapes for Living program. Landscapes for Living is an outdoor water use efficiency program that offers rebates and FREE installation of water-saving equipment to help residential customers reduce outdoor water use, save money and gain beautiful yards. It is a one-stop shop for EMWD customers to begin a water-efficient landscape project of any size.  

Visit the Landscapes for Living website to review the wide selection of free services and rebates offered. 

Inland Empire Utilities Agency  (IEUA)

The next time you are on Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s website to pay your water bill, visit the ‘Save Your Water’ section. There, you will find information on water-wise gardening including irrigation techniques, plant guides and recommendations for the hot Inland Empire region, advice from experts, and listings of local gardens to visit for your own landscaping ideas. 

Looking to talk to someone directly regarding your water use efficiency questions? Call IEUA’s Water Use Efficiency Hotline at (909) 993-1952. You’ll also find helpful landscaping resources on the ‘rebates’ page. 

San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District  (SBVMWD)

Did you know that San Bernardino Municipal Valley Water District (SBVMWD) has free landscape plans on their website that look beautiful and save water? Visit the District’s ‘landscape ideas’ page for green thumb ideas that are water-wise. 

SBVMWD also connects customers to the Water Saving Garden Friendly Inland Empire website where customers can explore beautiful, sustainable and drought-tolerant plants that thrive in the Inland Empire. Visit the site to easily add your favorite plants to a private list that you can print and bring to your favorite nursery. 

Western Municipal Water District  (WMWD)

Western Municipal Water District’s (WMWD) Landscape Style Guide is truly a source of inspiration to cultivate joy in your outdoor spaces. Don’t know where to start? Begin by taking Western’s style quiz to see which option best suits you! Then begin exploring the eight different landscape styles equipped with a “plant-by-numbers guide” to easily undertake your landscape project.  

Want to scrap your landscape or lawn and go turf? No problem! WMWD has you covered with added turf replacement rebates. Currently, customers can apply for Western’s rebate which includes $3 per square foot for the first 1,000 square feet and pair it with Metropolitan Water District’s rebate of $2 per square foot. In total, Western customers can receive $5 in rebates per square foot.  

Keep the conversation flowing by following us on social media and sharing your water-saving strategies! 

Facebook: @SoCalTapWater 

Twitter: @SoCalTapWater 

Empower Your H2O 22

This new year, refresh your water-saving knowledge and create your most water-efficient home yet.  

As Californians, we know that every raindrop, snowflake and turn of the faucet counts. This month, we’re focusing on empowering you to save water by learning simple at-home hacks and low-priced products to help save this precious resource.  

Discover how to master your water meter and tap into water-saving accessories to trim usage and prevent waste. Dive into 2022 with empowered resolutions focused on conservation!  

Water meter mastery 

If you have running water, you have a water meter that tracks how much water has been used on your property. Learning how to read your water meter is simple and can help promote water efficiency by monitoring water usage and catching any leaks.  

Your water meter and your monthly water bill work in tandem. Water agencies calculate bills based on what your meter reads. Taking time to periodically check your water meter could help detect any problems before you see a spike on your monthly statement. Here’s how: 

1) Locate your meter box: Most water meters have a concrete cover over it. For residential houses, meter boxes can often be found by the curb or near the street at the front of the home. If you live in an apartment or condo, we encourage you to contact your property manager to ask about the location of your water meter.  

2) Remove the concrete cover safely: Practice safety and caution when opening concrete covers because they are often heavy. You will need a crowbar or flathead screwdriver to help you open it. There may be weeds, roots or some crawly critters living under the concrete cover. Take your time when removing the cover and for added protection wear garden or utility gloves. Once you have prepped for opening the cover, place the crowbar or flathead in the slot located on the top of the concrete cover and pull open. Once removed, place the concrete cover to the side.  

3) Read the water meter: Once you have safely removed the cover, your water meter awaits you. You may need to flip the plastic cover on the meter upwards to reveal the meter.  For analog meters, there are three key components you need to know to read it properly: the dial, odometer and the low flow indicator.  

Odometer: The odometer on the water meter will look like the one on a car’s dashboard. The odometer records the total water usage in cubic feet. For billing purposes, water usage is measured in cubic feet that is then converted to gallons.  

Dial: The dial will look like a clock and typically has a red hand that rotates around the meter. A full rotation of the dial is equal to 1 cubic foot of water usage.   

100 cubic feet = 748 gallons = 1 unit of water billed. 

Low flow indicator: The low flow indicator looks like a miniature version of the dial. It will spin as water flows through your home’s pipes. Keep reading to see how the low flow indicator can help you identify possible leaks on your property!  

4) Investigate for leaks: Your water meter can inform you of leaky pipes before picking up the phone to call a plumber for further inspection. If you have noticed a spike in your water bill, water spots on ceilings or mysterious puddles around your property, chances are that you have a leak.  

To check for leaks on your property, shut off the water to your home by turning off the main water valve. Main water valves are often located next to your water meter outside of the house near the street. Turn the valve clockwise to stop the flow of water to your home. Next, look at your water meter and see if the low flow indicator or smaller dial on the meter is still spinning after you have shut off the main water valve. If the dial is still spinning after you have shut off the water to your home, this typically indicates that there is a leak on your property that needs to be addressed.  

Invest in low-priced water-efficient hardware   

Now that you are a water meter master, it’s time to look around your home for areas where you could upgrade your current hardware. Investing in water-efficient hardware and accessories can seem daunting and expensive, but there are several low-cost options that bring big savings over time. 

Water-efficient shower heads:  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), shower heads use 2.5 gallons per minute. For the average American family, that adds up to 40 gallons per day. Water-efficient shower heads use less than 2 gallons per minute without losing pressure, spray or intensity.  

Pool covers:  

Pool covers can dramatically aid in reducing evaporation and keeping dust, leaves and debris from collecting in the pool. Did you know that water evaporation not only happens on hot, dry days but also on cold winter nights? So, whether it’s a sizzling July summer day or a chilly January evening, if you have a pool and it is not in use, always use a pool cover.  

Water-saving sprinklers:  

The EPA also reported residential outdoor water use accounts for 9 billion gallons of water each day. Fixed water sprinklers often mist over landscapes and spray out large amounts of water in the air. This often results in overwatering, uneven coverage and wasted H2O. Replace the nozzle on your sprinklers with an efficient nozzle to decrease water waste. It can lower your monthly bill and is easy to install. 

Pro tip! Most SoCal water agencies also offer rebates for your purchases of specific water-efficient hardware and appliances. When you are ready to upgrade, be sure to contact your local water provider or visit their website to learn more about what rebates are available in your area.   

Keep the conversation flowing by following us on social media and sharing your water-saving strategies! 

Facebook: @SoCalTapWater 

Twitter: @SoCalTapWater 

Investing in a route out of drought Q&A

Water efficiency is no longer a wish-list item or an afterthought – it is a reality that Californians must face together. On Oct. 19, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for the entire state of California, as water saving efforts continue to fall short of the state’s voluntary targets.  

This month, we sat down with the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD) Board Director Bruce Whitaker for a Q&A about regional efforts to mitigate drought, the use of reclaimed water and what the future holds for Southern California’s water infrastructure. Whitaker is also SAWPA’s Vice Chair/Commissioner, serves on the One Watershed One Water (OWOW) Steering Committee and is the Mayor of Fullerton, California.  

Q&A with Bruce Whitaker 

OCWD Board Director Bruce Whitaker

Q: With Governor Newsom recently declaring a drought emergency, it seems more important than ever to help educate consumers. What does drought mitigation mean to you? 

A:  To me, drought mitigation means reducing water use to the greatest extent possible. If we can curtail water waste and the overuse of water, it can make a big impact here in Southern California. The idea is to reduce now for the longer term.  

Q: Tell us about the drought mitigation efforts that OCWD and other Southern California regional groups have initiated during your tenure.

A: Drought mitigation in the long-term means making sure we have resiliency. We need to be able to provide adequate amounts of water to meet requirements. We need to make sure that when you turn on the tap or fire up a fire hose, that clean, safe water comes out. That means that we want to have multiple sources in our water supply. We try to have as many opportunities as possible to help augment our supplies – especially in the very populous area that we occupy.  

For example, the OCWD operates the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), and we are in the middle of a final expansion of that now. It is effectively a new source of water. We recycle runoff and used water, and then we get a second use of that valuable resource.  

OCWD is also very active in the Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program (SARCCUP), which allows for storage that can be accessible to other areas if they develop shortfalls of water supplies. 

We have been making use of federal government support through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which has allowed us to come up with funds to augment and increase water storage and our ability to impound water to be able to recharge our reservoirs and recharge basins. This helps us build insurance against a low water supply.  

Q:What are the key public misconceptions about recycled water?

A: OCWD works very hard in our communication efforts to combat misconceptions about recycled water and change the public perception of it. Our water, when it comes out of the GWRS, is ultra-pure. The nature of ultra-pure water is corrosive to stainless steel pipes, so we actually have to add back in minerals and normalize the PH. Otherwise, we could have infrastructure issues.  

People should have no concern about the safety of this water. I like to say that water is the most renewable of all our resources.  

Q:  How is OCWD investing in local and sustainable water supplies?

A: We serve 19 cities and water agencies that in turn serve 2.5 million customers.

We are blessed here at the Orange County Water District to have a wonderful aquifer that underlies two thirds of Orange County – the northern and the central portions of the county. 

This low-cost source of water is naturally purified. We have recharge basins that we own and operate in the cities of Anaheim and Orange which are adjacent to the Santa Ana River. Mother Nature has a great purification plan, and we make the best use we can of that natural resource.  

Q: What ways can the public help with drought mitigation? 

A: Stop watering non-essential turf. A couple of years ago, we were all encouraged to go xeriscape with our lawns. For the average residential use of water, more than half is used for landscaping purposes.  

Many agencies and local water providers offer incentives for water-efficient appliances such as water saving toilets, faucets, showers and more. We do a lot to encourage reduced use and that is working. In the past 20 years in California, we have had substantial population growth, yet the amount of water we are using is about the same as it was 20 years ago.  

Keep the conversation flowing by following us on social media and sharing your water-saving strategies! 

Facebook: @SoCalTapWater 

Twitter: @SoCalTapWater 

Water efficiency is no longer a wish-list item or an afterthought – it is a reality that Californians must face together. On Oct. 19, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for the entire state of California, as water saving efforts continue to fall short of the state’s voluntary targets.  

We all must find ways to step up water use efficiency efforts in our daily lives by being more mindful about indoor and outdoor use. This month we are breaking down how to practice mindfulness when it comes to your water use efficiency. By adjusting your daily water use habits, together, we can make positive impacts on protecting our local and state water supplies. 

See where you can save  

Take a deep dive into examining your where water is most overused in and around your household or business. Is it your landscape, kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room? Do you have any leaking faucets or pipes on your property? Identify the primary source of water usage to guide how you will step up efficiency in the areas that need immediate attention.   

Set intentions for your new habits  

When building a new habit, it is important to set goals for what you intend to accomplish through your actions. Check out the questions below and write down your answers on a note pad or sticky note. When you’re done, display the note near a sink or shower to stay reminded of your water efficiency intentions.  

  1. What is one thing I can do to save water in the morning?  

(Example: Turn off the water while brushing my teeth; place a bucket to catch water in the shower while the water warms up to use for plant irrigation.)  

  1. What is one thing I can do to save water in the evening?  

(Example: Run the washing machine only when it is completely full; soak fruits and veggies in a bowl of water instead of washing them under running water.)  

Listen to Mother Nature 

“One of the best ways to be efficient with your watering is to pay attention to the weather,” said Rob Whipple, water resources specialist for Western Municipal Water District. “If it has rained, shut off your irrigation system for a week or so – that way, you will not overwater your landscaping.”  

Whipple also recommends tuning into the time of year and practicing seasonal water use adjustments by using weather-based irrigation controllers and cutting minutes and days off of irrigation schedules. In Southern California, the rainy seasons typically begins this month and continues into March.  

“As we move into fall and winter, the best practice is to cut your irrigation system way back or shut off your system altogether for the season,” Whipple said.  

Tap into efficient tools  

It is simple to know which option is better for the environment when it comes to tap or bottle. Millions of si

Now is the time to consider investing in water-efficient tools, appliances and upgrades for your home or business. If you want to invest in water-wise appliances for your property, water-efficient washing machines and toilets are the best options to save H2O and lower your monthly bill. However, you do not have to spend large amounts of money on upgrades to start saving today.  

“Install a smart timer on your irrigation system and replace your sprinkler heads with water-efficient nozzles,” Whipple said. “These are small but mighty ways you can keep your monthly bill low, save water and still make sure your landscapes look great!” 

Western Municipal Water District offers enhanced residential and commercial rebates for their customers through their Rebate H2O program. In addition, Western provides a variety of free and low-cost programs to help customers save more. Most water districts offer similar programs – contact yours to find rebates you can put to use in your own home. 

Reflect on what water means to you  

Pause, reflect and enjoy a big sip of water. A large part of being mindful is connecting to your personal “why.” Too often, we take for granted the water we have access to from the simple turn of a faucet. Take time to cherish water! Reflect or meditate on what having access to clean, reliable, and safe water 24/7 means to you.  

Want to take this a step further? Start a gratitude list that is just about water. Write down a list of reasons you are grateful for water and reflect on how water improves your daily life.  

By pairing new habits with knowledge, we can protect our most precious resource – water. Keep the conversation going by following us on social media and sharing your water-saving strategies! 

Facebook: @SoCalTapWater 

Twitter: @SoCalTapWater 

Tap Water Scare Tactics  

This Halloween season we are tapping into the truth about tap versus bottled water. Water scare tactics are being used to sway the public into buying bottled water, but they simply aren’t true.  

Don’t let these tap water scare tactics spook you from making use of the high-quality, safe and clean H2O available straight from your faucet. Let’s debunk the myths about tap water safety – tap water is actually held to much higher standards than bottled water. 

Tap scare tactic #1: Bottled water is specially sourced.  

Though your bottled water may advertise that it was sourced from a famous mountainside or beautiful river, that bottled is oftentimes – you guessed it – just tap water. That’s right, water bottle brands are selling you what you already have at home for a 100% price markup. Don’t let bottled water marketing fool you into buying what you already have, straight from your faucet.  

Tap scare tactic #2: Bottled water is better for my health.  

The marketing behind bottled water is strategic and creative. From colorful branding to promises of health benefits, the bottled water industry knows how to attract consumers. But here’s the truth: drinking bottled water can actually expose you to toxins from microplastics that may have infiltrated the water during manufacturing. This is a process that tap water does not use and thus avoids any contamination from BPA’s and other plastic toxins.   

Tap scare tactic #3: Bottled water is more regulated than tap water.  

Local water agencies and authorities are guided by, and comply with, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. These two Environmental Protection Agency guidelines position public health and environmental safety as top priorities. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires all public water systems to notify customers annually regarding the quality of the water they receive. Does your bottled water company do that? Most likely, the answer is no.  

Tap scare tactic #4: Bottled water is better for the environment.  

It is simple to know which option is better for the environment when it comes to tap or bottle. Millions of single-use plastic bottles become pollution each year as a result of bottled water not being properly disposed of. When you rely on tap water instead of bottled water to quench your thirst, you have the opportunity to fill up a reusable water bottle and can save hundreds of plastic bottles from becoming pollution.  

For all the latest tips, hacks and truths on SoCal tap water, follow us on social media:

Facebook: @SoCalTapWater

Twitter: @SoCalTapWater 

Whether it’s an earthquake, wildfire or other disaster, Southern California households know that emergency situations can arise without warning. It’s always important to be ready – and what could be more vital than access to drinking water? While our communities may go for many years without a disruption in potable water service, every household should prepare for the possibility by having an emergency supply of water on hand.  

Preparedness is everyone’s job, and that’s why the California Department of Public Health advises each household to have a three-day Emergency Supply Kit. During the first few hours or days following a disaster, essential services may not be available, and people must be ready to act on their own. ​ 

Clean drinking water may not be available in a disaster scenario, if there is a disruption to the systems that keep water flowing to the tap. Your regular water source could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. That’s why as part of emergency preparedness, each family should plan to have an adequate supply of water on hand.  

It might surprise you to learn that you don’t need to pay for bottled water to build your own emergency supply. Tap water is safe, clean and provides great value over bottled water. Here are some tips for storing your own supply of water to be ready in the event of a disaster.

How much water should I store? 

As a general rule, you need at least one gallon of water per person per day for each member of your family. This is considered a minimum level for drinking and sanitation. Be sure to store enough for at least three days for all members of your household, according to Ready.gov.  

As a rule of thumb, store more water than you need so that you don’t run short in an emergency. In the relatively warm climate of Southern California, you may want to double this amount because high temperatures can increase your need for water – especially if a disaster occurs during the summertime. 

What’s the best way to store water? 

There are several ways you can make sure your emergency water supply stays fresh and safe for consumption. To prepare your own containers of water, you can purchase food-grade water storage containers to store tap water. A warehouse store is a good place to find large containers, which are also available through online retailers.  

For those on tight budgets, it may not be necessary to spend money on containers. The California Department of Public Health suggests storing water in clean plastic containers such as milk jugs or large soft drink bottles. Before filling with chlorinated water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and sanitize the bottles by cleaning with a solution of one teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. As an alternative, you can buy commercially bottled water and store it in the sealed original container. 

Be sure to store your water supply in a cool, dark place. Avoid locations near a window or stove; many households opt for storing water in a closet or outdoor shed. Make sure the containers are sealed tightly to avoid leaks. 

Rotate your supply 

Part of emergency preparedness is ensuring that your supplies are in good condition. This includes water, which should not be stored indefinitely due to the risk of contamination.  

Plan to replace your home-bottled supply every six months with fresh, clean tap water. Check the condition of your water containers and replace, if necessary. If you purchased commercially bottled water, always use it by the printed expiration date. 

Other emergency supplies to have on hand 

Once you have your water supply stocked up, it’s time to turn your attention to overall emergency preparedness for you and your family. Water is just one of the supplies that every household should have on hand during a disaster. As a best practice, every household’s Emergency Supply Kit should include water, food, a First-Aid kit, a flashlight and hygiene items – to name a few. For a full list, visit Ready.gov/kit.  

Cheers to National Water Quality Month

What better month to tap into specifics about the quality of your drinking water than August, which is National Water Quality Month? SoCal residents and businesses alike can always feel confident about the quality of their water, because their tap water is always fresh, clean and readily available. That’s the objective of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and our member agencies. Let’s take a deep dive into what it means to have high-quality water and the benefits it adds to our lives. 

Water quality is a priority.   

Water agencies are guided by two acts that always place public health and environmental safety as top priorities. Water Quality Month dates to the 1970s when two very important congressional acts were passed to protect our water resources. First, in 1972, the Clean Water Act focused on pollution control and made dumping high amounts of toxic materials into bodies of water illegal. In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed to further protect the water designated for drinking use both under and above ground.   

Water quality is a guarantee.   

SAWPA’s member agencies adhere to both federal and state strict standards for water to ensure that your tap water is always clean and safe. They are also continuously investing in improved water infrastructure and supporting public policies that protect water sources.   

Water quality is transparent.   

It is no secret here how water is sourced, treated, tested, and delivered. Your water agency tests the water delivered to your home or business hundreds of times annually to ensure that what you receive from your tap is always top quality. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires all public water systems to notify customers annually regarding the quality of the water they receive. For questions about your water agency’s water quality report, visit their website or contact them to receive a copy.  

Water quality is a blessing.   

Water is the source of all life. It fuels our families, animals, agriculture, the economy, and more. Without clean, high-quality water, our daily lives would look very different. We are fortunate to live in a country and state that values water quality and takes it very seriously. So, pour a refreshing glass of tap water and cheers to your high-quality SoCal H2O. 

🎶 Summertime and the livin’ is easy! Fish are jumping and the water bill is high! 🎶  

Who doesn’t love summertime in Southern California? If we had to take a guess, we would say your water meter. SoCal summers bring us sunbathing at the beach, surfing swells, lazily lounging poolside and soaking in loads of sunshine. Nevertheless, the season is also accompanied by drought and significant water shortages. 

As we enter into an exciting summer of reemerging into the world after a year of social distancing, water conservation should be a priority. When we all make simple and small changes at home, we can make a major difference collectively. Every drop counts!  

Check out these handy water-wise tips for conserving: 

Indoors

In the bathroom:  

  • When warming up your next shower, place a bucket under your tub or showerhead faucet to collect the water that often gets wasted. That collected water can be used to water house plants or your garden. Consider it your indoor rain barrel!   
  • Limit time and water use when you shower this summer. An easy way to manage your water use in the shower is to use water wisely, and only when needed. If you take extra time to lather shampoo and conditioner in your hair, turn off the shower while you do so.   
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving your face. Instead fill up a cup of water before you begin brushing or shaving and use the cup for rinsing. This small trick will save gallons!   

In the kitchen:   

  • Only run the dishwasher when it is full. Pack your dishwasher to the brim with a full load of cups, silverware and plates before running it. 
  • If you need to wash large pots, pans or cooking sheets, do not continuously run water over them. Instead, allow these items to soak in soapy water for an extended period and then scrub.   
  • Place those pesky dropped ice cubes into small house plants instead of kicking them under the fridge or tossing them in the sink. The cube will melt and soak right into the soil of your house plants to keep them hydrated!  

Outdoors

In the yard, garden and driveway:   

  • Go native and drought-tolerant with your landscape design. By selecting plant species that are native to our dry region, you can save water, money and time on irrigating by sporting a garden full of plants that can survive through periods of drought.   
  • Water your yard and garden in the evenings and mornings to avoid high evaporation times such as midday and the afternoon. The soil will be able to retain more moisture during the cooler temperatures of the mornings and evenings. 
  • Mow high! Turn the notch up on your mower a little higher during the summer to help shade the soil and prevent evaporation.    
  • Sweep – don’t spray – the next time you want to clean off pavement around your home. Spraying your driveway clean not only wastes water but could spread automotive fluids in your driveway into the natural landscape and waterways. Keep it simple and sweep your driveway instead.   
  • Skip the weekly car wash and opt for less frequent washes to save money and water this summer.   

The Water (Re)cycle

Here’s a water truth that likely doesn’t swim across your mind too often: The water we use for all our daily needs and activities is the water that has always been on our planet. From rain, rivers, oceans, lakes, springs and aquifers – the water that Earth has given us is the water we will always have.  

Water resource planners, engineers and specialists have tapped into innovative strategies to keep our water supply flowing strong and steady. For decades, water agencies have been treating and recycling used water which plays a crucial role in making the most of the water we have available. For states like California that are prone to droughts and a population reflecting increasing demands on available water supply, this is an essential and sustainable approach to meet the demand for water.  

Recycling water for reuse is drought resistant, ecofriendly and sustainable. It allows Southern California water agencies to be less dependent on often more costly water sources such as imported water. It also supports local water infrastructure by helping to offset capacity issues.  

When water is used and rinsed down drains, showers, tubs and toilets it becomes wastewater. In short, wastewater is used water that contains waste. The wastewater drains through underground pipes and sewers, collected by wastewater agencies and delivered to a water recycling facility for treatment.  

By separating solid materials from the wastewater, settling of particulates, filtration and treatment processes, the wastewater is cleaned and ready for non-potable reuse. The cleaned, treated and recycled water is regularly tested to ensure it meets and exceeds state and federal standards.  

Recycled water is non-potable meaning it is not intended for human use. We do not ingest, drink or clean with recycled water. However, recycled water takes on a variety of other roles in our lives. 

Where is recycled water used? 

  • Outdoor landscape irrigation at public parks, schools, roadway landscapes, golf courses and cemeteries  
  • Agricultural use to water crops and plants  
  • Industrial uses at manufacturing plants  
  • Air conditioning units 
  • Car washes 
  • Street cleaning  
  • Decorative fountains  

Where is recycled water NOT directly used? 

  • Drinking water 
  • Showers and baths  
  • Cooking  
  • Residential toilets  

Your water: From source to tap

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and our water agency partners ensure that accessing safe, reliable H2O is as easy as a turn of the tap. High-quality, potable water (drinking water) is always available to your home or business at any time you need it.   

Whether you are turning on your shower for a morning wake-up, setting up the sprinkler to water your garden on a sizzling summer afternoon or guzzling a cold glass of H2O after a challenging workout, water is always there for you. While accessing water is a breeze, your water’s journey from source to tap is quite complex. Before it reaches your pipes, your water travels through a labyrinth of treatment and delivery infrastructure. Let’s explore how! 

Your water is sourced.  

Imported Water 

Water experts and planners in the 1960s saw an opportunity to provide the Golden State with water security for the future and an infrastructure project that would be the first of its kind in the United States according to the California Department of Water Resources. The State Water Project was born. The California State Water Project is a water storage and delivery system formed of dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, and power and pumping plants. The project supplies drinking water to more than 27 million Californians and irrigation to more than 750,000 acres of farmland.  

The State Water Project extends from Lake Oroville in Northern California all the way south to Riverside County. Water is pumped over 700 miles through pipelines, tunnels, canals and power plants to distribute water to agencies throughout California. Southern California also receives imported water from the Colorado River aqueduct that brings fresh water from parts of the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  

Local Water 

Water in Southern California is also sourced through groundwater. Groundwater is exactly what it sounds like, water from the underground. Groundwater is stored in aquifers and basins hundreds of feet beneath the surface we walk, drive and live on. SAWPA and our partner agencies know the supreme value of groundwater because it utilizes local water sources and reduces the demand for importing water from Northern California and the Colorado River. This process is more locally sustainable in the face of emergencies and less costly than purchasing water from far away.  

Your water is cleaned and treated.  

Water treatment supports public health and ensures that it is safe for use at your home and business. Treatment includes a four-part process.  

  1. Coagulation: The first process of water treatment involves some fancy terms: coagulation and flocculation. Coagulation is the process of adding chemicals with a positive charge to the water that neutralizes the negatively charged particles in the water. The positively charged chemicals neutralize and then bind with the particles. When the chemicals bind, they form larger particles called floc. 
  1. Sedimentation: The floc then begins to settle to the bottom of the tank in a process known as sedimentation. Sedimentation of these particles aid in the process of removing them and pushing the water on top to continue through the process of cleaning and treating the water.  
  1. Filtration: The clear water on top of the tank then passes through multi-layer filters and screens to remove dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses and chemicals. 
  1. Disinfection: Finally, the water is disinfected to kill any pathogens left in the water.  

Water is put to the test.  

Your water agency tests and treats water thousands of times per year to ensure it meets the highest water-quality standards in the world. Testing of your water is done on-site at operational facilities as well as in labs. The quality of your water is governed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires all public water systems to notify customers annually regarding the quality of the water they receive. 

Water is delivered right to your faucet. 

Delivery time! Water delivery infrastructure allows for the water to show up right to your home or business. Your water agency pumps water from a reservoir which often sits on a hill or high point and pumping stations. Because of its heightened location, the reservoirs can use gravity to flow water through pipes to reach your tap. Pumping stations use engines and pressure to deliver water straight to you.  

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