The Norman Transcript

April 8, 2013

Time for water conservation to become a habit

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Cleveland County Conservation District Education Director Chris Ward said learning to conserve water can become a habit that you do without thinking, just as most people now strap on a seatbelt and buckle up.

“How much water do you really need?” Ward said. “Oklahomans use on average 100 gallons of water a day. If we were each to reduce the amount by 30 percent, then we would conserve enough water to equal a body of water a quarter the size of Lake Thunderbird.”

Ward, and other water-wise experts, recently presented information on water conservation, the city’s new fertilizer ordinance and more at a Water Wise Workshop put on by the Norman Environmental Control Advisory Board.

With the state entering its third year of drought, water issues have come to the forefront, but even when the drought ends, water for Norman’s growing population will be a continuing concern.

The city is tackling that issue through the 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan currently under way. The need for water conservation has been a key aspect highlighted in that plan.

Ward encouraged people to look at their water bills and challenge themselves to keep water use low, even when gardening this summer.

“I do it every year,” Ward said.

When replacing toilets, washing machines or dishwashers, look for those that are labeled as water wise. Ward also encouraged people to check for leaks, including faucets, showerheads, bathtubs, sinks, outdoor faucets, toilets, washing machine lines, refrigerators, dishwashers and water heaters.

“Replace faucets made prior to 1994 with low-flow models or add an aerator,” Ward said.

Ward suggested turning water off when you wash hands, brush teeth, shave or hand wash dishes.

“This is a tremendous amount of water,” Ward said. “You need to stem that tide.”

Taking short showers instead of a bath is another means of saving water and don’t use the toilet as a trash can, Ward said.

Toilets account for about 30 percent of all indoor use and can use up to seven gallons of water per flush. Water-sense toilets save several gallons of water per flush, but a brick or rock to displace water in an old tank is a simple fix.

Ward also talked about using a shower bucket. You fill the bucket while waiting for the shower to get hot.

“It honestly doesn’t take that much time and effort to do those things,” Ward said.

In regard to the city’s new fertilizer ordinance, City Engineer Scott Sturtz said the ordinance resulted in part from information and ideas obtained during the Stormwater Master Plan.

“The water-quality problems have been identified for years,” Sturtz said.

Studies have looked at what’s going on with Lake Thunderbird, which is listed as an impaired body of water. The fertilizer ordinance is only one part of the entire plan of attack to improve the quality of the lake’s water.

“The reason we’re worried about the phosphorus is it encourages algae to grow,” Sturtz said. “Norman is not the only contributing municipality to this watershed. We are about half.”

Oklahoma City and Moore also have a strong impact.

Norman’s ordinance is not a phosphorus ban but a fertilizer control ordinance, Sturtz said. “We’re not saying you can’t use fertilizers.”

The city looked at sample ordinances that worked well in other places.

Phosphorus fertilizer use is restricted, and educational information will be distributed to the public.

“Studies found that phosphorus is beneficial in the first few months,” Sturtz said. However, once a yard is established, phosphorus is not beneficial. If soil tests low in phosphorus, it will be allowed. Application also is restricted prior to rain, and it must be properly stored.

Blowing yard debris such as leaves and grass clippings into stormwater drains also is prohibited. In addition to clogging up the system, this creates phosphorus loading in the stormwater running to the lake.

Fines for violating the fertilizer laws range from $50 to $750.

The workshop schedule is available for viewing online through the city’s website, Click on the link to City Council and Planning Commission videos on the right side of the home page. The workshop also will air periodically on Channel 20, City Clerk Brenda Hall said.

Joy Hampton



For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.