1:23:18 Extreme Water Conservation

I've written before about how Portland leads the nation for outrageous water bills [Seattle and Atlanta are also in the pack]]. In my earlier post on the topic, I noted our "water bills" are not just for water, but also sewer and stormwater disposal. It's the latter that wags the proverbial dog.

[water faucet]

That is, people use water, which is accurately determined by City meter readers that go around every three months to come up with a customer's quarterly bill. But there's no way to objectively measure sewer and stormwater outflows, so the City guesstimates that all of a customer's winter quarter [roughly December through February] water usage goes down the drain. This gets around the distortion of lawn watering during the summer.

A reasonable method, but also open to potential abuse. When the City Water Bueau periodically wants to embark on expensive upgrade projects, they increase the non-water charges by raising the multiplier for water charges. More and more, Portlanders are treated as an open wallet.

What to do? Ultimately, the customer has to grin and bear it.

But a partial deflection of these escalating charges is to minimize water usage during the winter quarter. Sewer and stormwater charges are the same every quarter, being based on that one winter water reading.

So for a few years, by cutting water usage during winter, I've realized savings of some 25% or more for the whole year's water bills. Hundreds in my pocket makes the game worth playing.

This year, I've tried Extreme Water Conservation--ECW, for short. As in past years, the dishwasher runs every other day. Washing machine once a week. No taps left running, ever.

But also with ECW, it's not two-and-one-half minute showers daily. It's one of those weekly! Shaving is now every other day. Brushing teeth is six ounces of water to rinse mouth and to clean brush. In theory, one toilet flush a day! You get the idea, ECW cuts water usage to the bone.

I'll know in March if I've beat my earlier water sacrifices when I see the water bill. But in the meantime, I'm getting psychic income.

Above all, in a concrete way I value water. I can identify with people who might not have running water, who must carry water from a well daily.

What do I miss? To be honest a long, hot shower would be nice on cold days. But when I shave I have about three quarts of hot water to splash on my face, before I towel off and follow with witch hazel. The hot water on my skin I relish for suggesting a hot shower.

Image credits: ruralandprogressive.org

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