Water calculator shows Wisconsin residents how much money is going down the drain

Simple upgrades to old showerheads, toilets can bring significant savings

Contact: Kevin Masarik 715-346-4276, kmasarik@uwsp.edu

Stevens Point, Wis.–Many people are literally sending money down the drain by using older less-efficient showerheads or toilet fixtures. But a new water cost and savings calculator developed by UW-Extension’s Center for Watershed Science and Education and UW-Stevens Point lets Wisconsin residents that rely on community water systems see how much money they are wasting–and how much they could save through increased water use efficiency.

“What most people served by municipal water systems don’t realize, is that in addition to a standard service connection fee, there is often a water and sewer fee associated with every drop of water used,” says Kevin Masarik, UW-Extension groundwater educator with the Central Wisconsin Groundwater Center.

Water and sewer fees are variable from community to community, making it difficult to develop tools for homeowners to see how much they could save by installing more efficient water fixtures. “Add in energy costs needed to heat water for taking a shower and people may be surprised at how much some of their everyday activities actually cost over the course of a year,” says Masarik.

For an activity like showering, which accrues water and sewer fees, as well as energy costs associated with heating water, it can be difficult to quantify a cost, but most people assume the amount is small. The costs may seem even less significant because the bills are divided into monthly or quarterly statements; however when you add them all up over the course of the year, they can be significant.

The new water calculator allows homeowners to easily see how much money could be saved annually through increased efficiency. For example, a family of four in the City of Fond du Lac with an older showerhead and an electric hot water heater could save over $300 per year by simply installing a 1.25-gallon-per-minute showerhead.

“For many families these days, that extra money can go a long way towards paying the bills or putting food on the table,” says Masarik.

Who stands to gain most from installing more efficient water fixtures? “The more people living under the same roof, the more a household stands to gain,” Masarik explains.

Households with electric hot water heaters will see more savings than those with a gas hot water heater since it generally is more expensive to heat water with electricity. Replacing an inefficient showerhead offers quicker monetary savings than replacing an old toilet. Certain communities will see greater savings than others since water and sewer rates are not uniform across the state. The more inefficient your current water fixtures, the more you stand to save.

Masarik notes that for some people, especially those in newer homes that have installed high-efficiency fixtures, the savings may be smaller. But many Wisconsin families stand to save a great deal by taking some simple steps to improve efficiency.

“Technology has greatly improved the quality of low-flow showerheads and high-efficiency toilets over the last couple of years,” he says. “These technologies reduce the amount of water used without sacrificing functionality. Not only will you be saving money, but you will also be helping to save water and lessen the impacts of water use on the environment.”

Visit the Center for Watershed Science and Education’s website to download the Residential Water Saving Calculator and see how much you could save through improved water use efficiency at http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr/watersheds/

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