For Chicagoans, the words March, green and plumbing can only mean the greening of the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day by the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union Local 130. Don’t get me wrong — it’s quite a sight to see 45 lb. of vegetable dye mixed into the downtown portion of the river by plumbers in speedboats. But by green plumbing, I mean water conservation.
This month marks the seventh anniversary of Fix a Leak Week, an event established by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to provide awareness of how much water is wasted in the average household each year from leaking fixtures and faucets. These “minor” water leaks account for the loss of 10,000 gal. of water each year; nationwide, that adds up to about 1 trillion gal. — the annual household water use of 11 million homes.
Back in 2009, the EPA launched Fix a Leak Week on March 16 at the Phoenix home of Debbie and Dennis Jobin with a demonstration project. The week before, the EPA, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the city of Phoenix and plumbing wholesale distributor Ferguson set up two dripping toilets, two dripping faucets and a dripping showerhead in the Jobin’s driveway. At the end of the week, the fixtures had leaked more than 200 gal. of water. The Jobins were treated to WaterSense-certified toilets and faucets donated by Ferguson and installed by Phoenix plumbers.
The following year, the EPA focused on a Dallas program that offers assistance to low-income residential water customers with minor plumbing problems that may cause water waste and higher water bills. It provides high-efficiency toilets, showerheads and aerators in addition to making the repairs. During Fix a Leak Week, local plumbers, Kohler, Lowe’s, the EPA and other organizations helped Dallas clear more than 100 households on the program’s waiting list.
Other highlights over the years include:
• The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association’s four-mile race led by toilet mascot Leaky Loo McFlapper;
• WaterSense launched its first Twitter party in 2012, where #fixaleak debuted;
• Delta Faucet led an event where volunteers replaced leaky toilet flappers and installed WaterSense-labeled faucet aerators and showerheads in more than 1,000 low-income units in nine cities;
• The city of Asheville, N.C., partnered with a water filtration company to distribute free water conservation information, leak identification kits, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and dual-flush conversion kits; and
• Several communities last year hosted “Leak Detective” photo contests on social media highlighting residents who had fixed leaks in their homes.
The 2015 event takes place March 16-22. And while it is important to have this week set aside each year to help homeowners and business owners focus on small ways they can save water and save money, water conservation should be considered during the entire year.
Yes, you can participate in Fix a Leak Week events in your communities, but why stop there? Incorporating green plumbing practices into the services you offer customers gives water conservation a year-round focus. What about offering a free leak detection inspection at every service call? Or posting leak-detection tips and videos on your company’s website and social media pages? You may even be able to parlay this information into a regular gig with your local newspaper, TV station or radio station.
This kind of free advice helps establish your company and its technicians as water and plumbing experts. It keeps your company’s name in the forefront of your customers’ — and potential customers’ — minds.
Water conservation in drought-stricken states is a no-brainer. But for some people, it’s not a big issue. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, right? But everyone likes to save money. EPA’s WaterSense says that 10% of U.S. homes have leaks that waste 90 gal. of water a day. Depending on your local water rates, that can be a significant amount of money. Use that information as part of your leak detection pitch and you’ll get more customers thinking about water conservation.
So as the nation celebrates Fix a Leak Week this year, think about what you can do to nurture water-conservation efforts in your community — not just for a week, but for the whole year. It’s just the right thing to do.