Town Sets Water Conservation Pace

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With several new initiatives in progress, the town water department's award-winning water conservation program isn't resting on its laurels.

Topping the list of initiatives is a testing program currently under way on a new sensor faucet that has town water officials excited. The faucet, manufactured by Toto, is the first self-generating hydropower sensor faucet that harnesses the electrical power generated by its own water flow.

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Town water resource specialist Jeff Durbin demonstrates the new water-saving Toto sensor faucets currently being tested at Payson Town Hall, Mazatzal Casino and Payson Regional Medical Center. The faucets shut off instantly when hands are removed from beneath them and only run for 10 seconds while a person washes his hands.

The faucet generates its own electricity each time water flows over its internal turbine, storing the power in a rechargeable battery that has a 10-year life span.

"You put your hand under it and the water comes on," town water resource specialist Jeff Durbin said. "When you pull your hand away, it turns right off. If you were to leave your hand underneath there it lasts only for 10 seconds.

The faucets are being tested in rest rooms at the water department, Mazatzal Casino and Payson Regional Medical Center. The town also wants to try the new faucets in nursing homes and schools.

"The hospital and nursing homes take real tall medical faucets that last 60 seconds, but they still turn off when you take your hands away," Durbin said.

The new faucets cost about $250, but Durbin said they are worth it. According to the manufacturer, the faucets reduce water usage by 20 percent.

"Hopefully we'll save a lot of water with these," Durbin said.

While the town is testing the faucets, no decision has been made about whether it will stock them for sale to its customers.

"We haven't decided whether to sell them to businesses ourselves or not," Public Works Director Buzz Walker said. "We had seen so many faucets over the years we didn't like that we felt compelled to tell people, ‘You probably don't want to be using these,'" Walker said. "Rather than make a blacklist of ones we don't care for, we thought, let's do it positive and try some out in some high-use locations and see what we think of them."

Fixtures retrofit deadline

The tough new water conservation ordinance passed by the council last year requires that all public and semi-public rest rooms be retrofitted by Jan. 1, 2005:

  • Toilets must have an average consumption of not more than 1.6-gallons-per-flush.
  • All urinals must be converted to waterless urinals.
  • Lavatory and kitchen faucets must be equipped with aerators and must not exceed a flow of 2.5-gallons-per-minute.
  • Self-closing faucets that do not exceed .25 gallons per use must be installed in lavatories intended to serve the transient public.
  • Shower heads cannot exceed a flow of 2.5-gallons-per-minute.
  • Evaporative cooling systems, decorative water fountains, car washes and commercial clothes washers must be converted to recirculating systems.

Waterless urinal program

The water department is putting the finishing touches on a program that will make it easier for businesses to purchase waterless urinals.

"What we'll do is buy them at our greatly reduced price, and provide however many they need and then give them a year to pay it off on their water bill, interest-free," Walker said.

Restaurant crackdown

The water department has also begun aggressively enforcing the restriction that glasses of water be provided to restaurant customers only when requested.

"We have started issuing violations and they result in fines of $50 per day," Durbin said. "The town will provide table tent cards explaining the requirement free of charge."

The water department also has begun replacing grass areas on town property with natural turf.

"We're replacing all our landscaping areas with artificial turf," Durbin said. "It looks beautiful -- it looks just like natural grass. Plus, it has a 20-year lifespan."

Consumption down

Walker recently provided the town council with an annual water consumption recap.

It showed that water use had gone down 7 percent in calendar year 2003 compared to the previous year -- from 588,084,300 gallons to 548,600,700 gallons.

"We are now using water at a rate of 92 percent of safe yield versus 99 percent for 2002," Walker told the council. "The water-use figures indicate that our various water consumption strategies are on target and that we do not need wholesale changes in our implementation of these strategies into the near future."

Safe yield, the concept that the amount of water taken out of the ground be equal to or less than the amount put in, has for years been the guiding principle upon which the town's water policies are based.

Durbin noted a corresponding drop in per capita consumption.

"We've got our water consumption down to about 90 gallons per day per person and that's incredible," he said. "The Valley average is 200-250 gallons per day per person.

The town was recently awarded the Lower Colorado Region's Water Conservation Field Service Program Award by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its conservation program. The region includes three states.

Durbin credited the work of Scott Stratton, town water resource technician, for making the conservation program user friendly.

"He has delivered toilets, and even changed toilets for customers who could not afford it," Durbin said.

For additional information or for a free showerhead or faucet aerator, contact Stratton at (928) 474-5242, ext. 380.

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