Published August 07, 2012
LOTT water conservation reduces pressure on Olympia drinking-water suppliesJOHN DODGE
The LOTT Clean Water Alliance has spent some $7 million in the past 15 years to promote and achieve water conservation in its sewer service territory in Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County. The big investment in saving money through low-flow toilets, water-efficient washing machines and water-saving retrofits of schools and commercial buildings has paid dividends in a couple of ways. By using less water, LOTT has avoided construction of new sewer capacity that would have cost some $21 million to build, which translates into $2 saved for every $1 spent on water conservation. In addition, by conserving more than 1 million gallons of water per day, the regional wastewater utility has reduced pressure on city drinking-water supplies. “This type of conservation success not only stretches our wastewater capacity, but also conserves our precious drinking-water supply,” Olympia Public Works Director Rich Hoey said. Customers also reap the benefits of new water-efficient appliance and fixtures, saving on their utility bills. In 1997, the LOTT partners set a goal of conserving 500,000 gallons per day by 2006. They reached 580,000 gallons of water conserved daily by the end of 2006, so they reset the goal to 1 million gallons conserved daily by the end of 2012. By late last month, the regional utility was at the 1,004,348-gallons-per-day mark, which is equal to about 10 percent of the wastewater treated daily on average by LOTT. A brief program recognizing the success of the water-conservation program is set for 11 a.m. Saturday during the grand opening of the East Bay Public Plaza. The water-themed park, which features a reclaimed-water stream approved for wading by state and local health officials, is in front of the new Hands On Children’s Museum, set to open in November. LOTT is just starting discussion on what to do with its water-conservation program moving forward. “We’ve already captured a lot of the low-hanging fruit,” LOTT executive director Mike Strub said of the conservation program. One possibility is to start replacing some of the early generation of low-flush toilets with more efficient ones, noted LOTT’s Lisa Dennis-Perez. Here’s a capsule look at the program’s main components, and water saved. • Nearly 10,000 LOTT customers have received rebates for purchasing water-efficient washing machines that collectively save about 220,000 gallons per day. • LOTT has installed more than 15,000 low-flow toilets that use anywhere from 1 gallon to 1.6 gallons per flush, compared with older toilets that use 3.5 gallons or more. The low-flush toilets are saving about 350,000 gallons per year. A case in point: Lacey Park Apartments replaced all the toilets in its 240-unit apartment complex and has seen a drop in water use of 18 percent, resident manager Leslie West said. • Some 85 commercial and institutional customers have signed up for the WaterSmart rebate program, which provides financial incentives to purchase water-efficient appliances and equipment. For instance, the Tumwater School District completed the project in six schools in 2011, reducing indoor water use in those schools by 43 percent. Overall, the commercial and institutional LOTT customers have achieved savings of 200,000 gallons per day. Also aiding in the water-conservation cause are free water-saving kits with shower heads and faucet aerators available to LOTT residential customers.