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“Water Day” Recap

By Tinn Lee
In March 29, 2017
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Water Conservation Showcase 14th Annual, March 21, 2017 “Water Day” Recap

by Susan Rainier, AIA


The Water Conservation Showcase is entirely focused on conserving water. Many of the sessions were about different agencies, universities and projects that have made conservation their focus.

I attended the sessions regarding water wasting, leak detection and changes in plumbing fixtures as well as the State of California’s Long Term Water Use Efficiency Framework.

Presentations given on this day will be posted on the PG&E Water Conservation Showcase website.


The State is focused on eliminating water waste and the 93-year-old water pipe break at UCLA in the height of the drought was given as an eye-opening showcase example.

At issue is how to control loss at a municipal level.  They think a holistic solution is possible, stating that savings with water can then pay for corrections.  I’m not clear how this actually could work.  Maybe it was not so clear because apparently the Governor has asked the Energy Commission to ‘certify’ water conservation.  They had workshops all over the State that were then turned into studies.  My question is why wasn’t the California State Water Board asked to do this?

Are you sitting down?  It was discovered that 283 billion gallons of water is lost by leaks that are underground, unseen and unheard.

The State is using the American Water Works Association AWWA M36 Manual, recommended reading for any entity.

State Water balancing occurs every 5 years (just giving the information…).

An engineer from San Francisco talked about their leak analysis and came up with these facts:  55% from old infrastructure; 26% Apparent from meter readings; Visible Breaks, Reported 6%, Hidden 13%;

Leaks Found Pro Actively 0%

What can be a proactive leak detection program?  It is said that it is mixing science with art.  Sounding rods have been used in the past with diminishing results (cities too noisy to hear…), correlating loggers measuring water between fire hydrants, GIS Hot Spots, Satellite and Thermal imaging.

A 1 second leak wastes 3,200 gallons of water per year.

A property manager for the California Center has used ‘Flood Stop – Aqua Managers’ that uses a “this day forward” approach – they look to “turn the water off” before it becomes a building disaster.  “Gravity is not your friend” they have learned this the hard way because SF has many high-rise buildings, yet even low rise and two story can have this problem – a leak on an upper floor flows down, down, down.

They are using detection strips on water lines that can turn off the water the moment they get moist. Not only have they protected their asset they have saved $200 Million in water savings. They believe that these water detection systems will eventually be put into centralized building and security systems.

A picture is worth a thousand words:  A photo of a high rise building in SF where an actual water fall is gushing out of a window of an upper story floor in a high-rise made an unforgettable impression.


Another article can be written about greywater best practices yet will not be the subject of this report at this time.

The intent of this article to highlight information that needs to get out to everyone everywhere.

It turns out that changing to lower flow fixtures and toilets is “starving the drains”.  It is not such a problem for residential (yet certainly can be) yet for commercial buildings it is a major problem.  Dry drains and sewers are causing wastewater plant issues.  Flows in drain line design need to work with new restrictive fixtures.  More thought is needed during design with a holistic approach.


Here is the most important communication in this article for getting the word out:  PAPER IS THE MAJOR CULPRIT IN STOPPAGES

3-ply toilet paper is problematic for residential and commercial.  Also, behavior change best practices ask that only what is really needed to do the job be used. Attention is need.

Products abound with the words “flushable” that are actually NOT FLUSHABLE.  The only thing that should be put down a toilet is a reasonably sized amount of toilet paper.  Nothing else.   Not matter what is said on the packaging:  baby wipes, cosmetic pads, dental floss, cotton balls – nothing except toilet paper.  If you do not want waste water flooding your home or to have to pay for a plumber to unblock your sewer connection then heed this warning. Help get the word out, please. Owners beware.

I walked by a major sewer block job on a city street in Davis today.  3 big trucks and one pumper tank were there. Big holes were cut in the street with guys down in them – it was right along a stretch of residences near a park in a nice part of town, clearly a major blockage had occurred.

Either change your ways or expect problems…. Oh, and what will be the biggest behavior change of all?  Bidet seats – No toilet paper at all! (Already done in other countries).


Check out MaP Maximum Performance information about many products. where you can find best practices, tools, trainings and checklists – all free.


In closing I was happy to have found a green alternative to the septic tank  – leach line systems used in rural areas.  These old systems have become unsustainable.

We all need to work together to help get new ways of doing things out to the general public and across our community.


Susan Rainier, AIA, Living Future Accredited, LEED BD+C is an architect in the Sacramento, California region who is a leader in advocating for reversal of man-made climate disruption. She is Facilitator for the Living Future Institute, leader in USGBC Capital Community and AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE). She is the Founder of the speaker series VISIONARY where leading edge game changers are brought to the Sacramento Region from various disciplines.

Susan is a frequent speaker and writer for addressing man-made climate disruption affecting the entire world.  She is an advocate for restorative, regenerative and resilient development and planning that respects natural ecosystems, diversity and follows the precautionary principle – First Do No Harm.




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