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Lathrop offers free kits to help conserve water
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LATHROP - Water conservation is a year-round concern for everybody. In the City of Lathrop, residents have not only a municipal ordinance to remind them of this vital concern but also a number of freebies available at City Hall to help them apply conservation measures in their day-to-day water consumption.

These include a low-flow shower head, a five-minute shower timer, a sink aerator unit, a tank bag for the toilet, and leak-detection tablets. Packets containing these items plus informational brochures are available to all Lathrop residents on a first come, first served basis. They can be picked up anytime from the Public Works Department at City Hall.

Public Works Director Steve Salvatore said that when used properly at home, these will not only help in the city’s water-conservation efforts but offer significant savings for residents in their monthly water bills. Lathrop, like other California municipalities, is stepping up water conservation efforts after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought emergency on Thursday.

He is asking all cities to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent as California enters its third year of drought.

The low-flow shower head alone will save the homeowner up to 3.5 gallons of water per minute. It generates just 1.5 gallons of water per minute, compared to some of the older shower heads which use five gallons a minute, Salvatore said.

For those who want to keep track of the exact time while in the shower, the timer provided by the city will do just that. This handy water-proof gadget features an hourglass set in a piece of glass that can be easily attached onto the shower wall.

The sink aerator device is designed to reduce the amount of water coming out of the faucet while at the same time giving “the appearance and feel of a lot of water,” Salvatore explained.

“Normally, when water comes out of the faucet, it’s a steady constant flow,” a full column of water, he said.

The aerator prevents that from happening by providing a “screen that goes on the outlet of your faucet which infuses air into the water.”

Leak detection tablet for toilet tanks
The leak-detection tablet which also comes with the free packet will show homeowners if water is being wasted in their toilet without their knowledge. That happens when water in the back tank of the toilet leaks into the bowl through the trap inside the tank.

“Sometimes you can’t even tell if it’s running; water is just leaking ever so slightly from the tank into the toilet bowl,” Salvatore said.

To find out if water is escaping needlessly, just use one of the leak-detection tablets in the tank. Blue water that comes out of the tank into the bowl will indicate a leak, in which case you need to fix the flap inside the tank to contain the escaping water. A flap normally costs just about $2 at the hardware store which makes this repair a good investment for residents, Salvatore said.

The free packets, he said, are “offered normally to people that have high water bills” and come in looking for ways to lower their payments.

Interim City Manager Cary Keaten showed a sample packet during last week’s public hearing on the proposal to increase water and sewer rates. More than two-dozen residents, many of them low income and on fixed income, attended the hearing to protest against the proposal. Keaten told those who were present and to anyone watching the televised meeting about the availability of these free water-conservation kits which could help lower their monthly water bills.

These “Water Saver Kits” are made possible by grants that the city applies for and receives from “water-conservation groups,” Salvatore said.

Also inside the packets are brochures that provide information such as how to monitor one’s water meter.
Hints & mandates to conserve water
Other helpful ways to prevent water waste from the Lathrop Public Works Department:

• Cover swimming pool to slow down the evaporation.

• Take a five-minute shower instead of a bath, and bathe in a tub less than half-filled with water.

• Put a water-filled plastic jug in toilet tank, away from working parts.

• Turn water off while shaving or brushing your teeth.

• Check faucets and pipes for leaks.

• Use only full loads in your automatic washers.

• Turn water off while washing dishes by hand.

• Water in the evening or morning to prevent rapid evaporation during the heat of the day.

• Avoid watering lawns on windy days.

• Plant drought-resistant plants, and mulch around plants.

• Use a broom to sweep the driveway clean.

• Use a bucket, a sponge and a hose with a shut-off valve to wash your car.

• In the event of an emergency, know where the shut off valve is located.
The city also has a water conservation ordinance which mandates the following:

• No watering between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

• Water runoff is prohibited.

• Hand-held trigger shut-off devices are required with a water hose.

• Washing of building exteriors, sidewalks, etc., is prohibited except in the case of spillage of substances that would be harmful to the public health of the environment.

• Watering landscapes during high winds that create water to blow away from the landscapes being watered is prohibited.

• Home addresses ending in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, & 9) will water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Address ending in even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, & 8) will water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

• Watering is not allowed on Mondays.

• Commercial and industrial customers shall water only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.