Town Water Conservation Can Be Measured One Dirty Plate At A Time

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While some may look at a sink full of dirty dishes and see a chore, members of the Payson Town Council see gallons of wasted water.

As Paysonites struggle to conserve water in their homes, the big water guzzlers are elsewhere, in places like commercial kitchens where dishwashers spray gallons down the drain each day as they rinse a shift's worth of dirty plates.

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As Macky's dishwasher Tim Mitchell cleaned large pots, he described the attachment's efficiency. "It saves time -- a lot of time, and it provides a lot more pressure," Mitchell said.

On March 23, the council took steps to remedy this water waste by joining Arizona's Rinse Smart program.

Under the Rinse Smart program, restaurant kitchens can opt to remove inefficient nozzles. A plumber then retrofits the existing valve with a high-power, water-saving attachment.

With the council's nod, Buzz Walker and the Public Works Department can move forward on the town's latest conservation efforts.

"We've targeted 40 commercial kitchens that would benefit from this," Walker said. "We're looking forward to the program because it's a win-win situation for everyone."

Traditional dishwashing nozzles spray up to six gallons per minute.

The new hardware, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, maximizes cleaning power with less waste: 60 pounds of pressure per square inch and a flow of less than 1.6 gallons per minute.

With this equation, less water also means more energy conservation.

"Restaurants could save from $50 to $400 a month on heating and water," Walker said. "We furnish the new spray nozzle and we install it free of charge."

Installation is easy. It takes 15 minutes, so kitchens can do it between the lunch and dinner rushes.

Payson's aggressive conservation efforts caught the attention of federal and local natural resource agencies.

To fund the retrofit, the town receives subsidies from the Bureau of Land Reclamation and the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Payson was one of the first municipalities invited to participate.

"The goal was to go to towns that had been successful in water conservation," Walker said.

The prerinse spray effort started in thirsty California in 2002. Since then, the state has installed almost 17,000 valves and saved 14,700 acre-feet of water. That's more than triple the acreage of the 2006 February Fire, covered with a foot of water.

Keith Parker manages the kitchen of Macky's Grill, which already uses a low-output nozzle.

"(The sprayer) saves a lot more water than it would coming from a faucet tap," said Parker. "If you don't have one, it's crazy. I wouldn't wash dishes (at a restaurant) without it."

As Macky's dishwasher Tim Mitchell cleaned large pots, he described the attachment's efficiency.

"It saves time -- a lot of time, and it provides a lot more pressure," Mitchell said.

Mayor Barbara Brewer and the town council supported the effective yet simple technology.

"We embrace any type of water conservation," Brewer said. "I think it's important for everyone in the Southwest to be frugal with water."

Meanwhile, the town offers several other water stewardship programs.

Walker encouraged residents to take advantage of the town's high-efficiency washing machine campaign.

Water department customers in good standing, with families of more than four, are eligible to receive a $200 rebate off approved water, energy and detergent saving washing machines.

"(The machines) save up to two-thirds on water," Walker said. "They'll cut drying cost and times because they spin so fast. The clothes are really dry when they come out."

The water department also offers free, low-flow showerheads.

Walker said he hopes to add to the town's 1,000 low-flow toilets by retrofitting the area's older hotels with the water-saving technology.

And look for efficient dishwashers in the near future.

"Customers have been so responsive to water conservation efforts that we're having to look outside the box for additional ways to save water," Walker said.

To find out more about the Rinse Smart program or the department's other initiatives, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 4.

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