City launches water saving pilot program

Posted in: Water Conservation, Water Education
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Article courtesy of Catherine Dominguez | February 15, 2014 | The Courier of Montgomery County | Shared as educational material

The city of Conroe is looking to its neighbors out west in considering a water conservation program that mimics a coupon program offered by the city of San Antonio.

The program, according to Chris Loomis, the city’s water conservation manager, will provide a limited number of coupons to residents allowing them to replace an existing toilet or shower head with water saving devices. The program would also offer a $100 coupon for an instant hot water re-circulating system for existing homes.

Loomis said the San Antonio Water System has been using a coupon program for “years.” He said the city would issue 100 $88 coupons for the toilets and could save about 40,000 gallons per year.

The program will replace existing toilets of 1.6 gallons or higher flush volume.

“It’s a lot of water saved each year just by helping people replace toilets,” Loomis said.

He said by issuing a coupon, the city can control the cost versus a rebate program. Cost of the program would be $15,000.

“I’m going to re-purpose money from one budget area to another,” Loomis said. “So it will be no additional cost (to the city).”

Councilman Gil Snider asked it replacing the toilets is easy for residents. Loomis said a plumber would need to install the unit.

“Is a 100 going to do much good?” asked Councilmember Jim Gentry.

Scott Taylor, director of public works, said the program, if the pilot is successful, would be reoccurring each year.

“Over time you would see the benefit,” he said.

The shower heads, he said, cost about $16 and the city would offer 200 coupons for residents. Loomis said annual water savings would be 12,000 gallons per year per home.

For the re-circulating hot water heaters, the city would issue 100 coupons for $100. He said the units would save about 15,000 gallons per year for each home.

In addition to the coupon program, Loomis suggested an Earth-Kind Perennial Research Garden at Carl Barton Jr. Park and a self-contained Wastewater Treatment Unit to irrigate athletic fields at the park.

Loomis said the 25,000 gallon per day unit can take wastewater, treat it and discharge it onto fields. He added the water meets requirements for all permits from the Texas Commission on Environment Quality.

Carl Barton Park has 13 baseball fields and nine soccer fields.

“The units seem to work well,” he said.

However Loomis said testing the unit would be critical to make sure the water is viable for the grass. He said Houston-based Active Water Solutions offered to test the unit at the park at their cost to determine if it is a good option.

“It would be great if a unit like this would work (for the park),” he said. “We could actually water three days a week instead of two in the summer time.”

Finally, Loomis asked the council to consider adopting a building ordinance to require an instant hot water re-circulating system for new residential homes.

Loomis said the units would only increase a builder’s cost by about $200.

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