Home Water Conservation

Conserving water is good for the environment and helps save money on your monthly water bill. Here are some small changes you can make that can impact your water consumption:

  • Appliances: Replace appliances with Energy Star models, don’t run your dishwasher until it’s fully loaded, and use the proper water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
  • Check for Leaks: Leaks in your pipes, faucets, or toilets can significantly increase consumption.  If you hear a toilet running or see a faucet leaking, get them repaired right away!
  • Install low-flow devices: Low flow devices on toilets, faucets, and showers can really make a difference!
  • Watch your Faucet! Whether you are washing dishes or brushing your teeth, try not to turn on the water until you’re ready to use it.

Irrigation accounts for about 50% of the water used by the average home in McMinnville!  Here are some tips to reduce outdoor water use:

  • Water in the late evening or early morning.
  • A lawn in good condition only needs 1” of water per week in the summer. Use a 1” deep tuna can to measure the output of your sprinklers. Place several around the yard and see how long they take to fill. Use timers to avoid overwatering.
  • Install a drip or efficient irrigation system.
  • Plant native or water-wise species of plants.
  • Do not use fine-mist sprinklers, as most water will be lost to evaporation.
  • Avoid overfertilization; 2-3 light applications per year are sufficient. Use a hose nozzle that automatically shuts off when released.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk.

During the winter months, temperatures can fall below freezing and could potentially cause water pipes to burst. Here are some steps you can take to winterize water pipes and hoses for cold weather:

Protect your water pipes and hoses during cold weather:

  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses when they are not being used.
  • Wrap exposed irrigation pipes with pipe insulation.
  • Insulate your irrigation backflow device by draping a towel over it and covering it with a bucket or other protective cover that touches the ground. You can also spray foam on the underneath side of the irrigation box lid, then place the lid back on the box.
  • Set your thermostat to at least 55 degrees when you’re away to protect indoor pipes and houseplants. Do not turn your heat off completely.
  • In the case of a broken pipe, locate your water shut-off valve. Follow the instructions below to turn off your water, so you can minimize damage from leaks or burst water lines. You can also call McMinnville Water & Light for a water shut-off.

Turning off water at the main water meter:

  • This will shut off water both inside and outside your home.
  • Locate the main water meter. Most meters can be found in the greenway in front of the sidewalk or just behind the sidewalk in front of your home.
  • Lift the lid. You will see a meter with a handle or dial, one on each side of the meter. Turn the handle on the “house” side of your meter. This should shut off the water completely. If there is no handle on the “house” side of the meter, but there is one on the “street” side of your meter, or if you don’t see any handle, call McMinnville Water & Light for a water shut-off.
  • It is the homeowner’s responsibility for making repairs to burst water pipes, irrigation lines or backflow devices. After you have made the necessary repairs, reverse the steps above to restore water service.

Slow drips of water can add up quickly. Your water meter may be your most useful tool in identifying water leaks on your property.

How to Use Your Water Meter To Detect Leaks:

  1. Turn off every water-using item inside and outside the house.
  2. Locate your water meter. Water meters are usually located near the street or sidewalk at the front or side of the house.
  3. The water meter is your indicator of water use. When water is not being used, nothing on the meter should be moving.
    • Water meters have numbers which record usage. Most residential water meters have a red triangle “leak detector,” which senses small leaks. Record the meter reading.
  4. After 30 minutes, record another meter reading. Compare your readings. Your two readings should be the same because no water should have been used. If the two numbers are different, or you see the red triangle “leak detector” moving, you have a leak.
  5. Most leaks are found in running toilets and faucets. To test the toilet:
    • Put a little food coloring into the toilet tank.
    • Wait at least 30 minutes. If you see color showing up in the bowl, the toilet is leaking.
    • Another method is to mark the water level in the tank with a pencil, turn off the water feeding the tank, then see if the water level drops.
    • Fixing the leak may be as simple as replacing the flapper or making a small adjustment to the float mechanism so that water doesn’t seep into the overflow tube.
  6. If you still can’t locate the leak, find the shut-off valve for your home. It should be in the meter box or near the location where the water line enters the building.Close the home’s shut-off valve. If the dial stops, your leak is inside the building.If the dial continues to run, you may have an underground leak between the water meter and the shut-off valve.

Leaks don’t repair themselves – They will get worse over time. For information on water wasted due to leaks, visit the DrinkTap Drip Calculator.