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What Can We Do?

Clean Water Sustainability and Protection

As owners of commercial and rental properties in Boston, you can reduce water usage inside and outside of your buildings. Our renters of business and residential properties use water in commercial buildings for many purposes. By sharing information about water conservation with our tenants, cleaning staff, maintenance workers and landscaping crews we can reduce water bills and contribute to less water use. BWSC has steps we can take to cut water usage. We can also reduce exposure to lead in our buildings and take steps to prevent frozen pipes during our long winters.

What Can We Do?

Let's help our tenants protect our clean water. There are ways to save water inside and outside of our buildings. We can fix leaks in pipes, replace dripping faucets and showerheads, encourage our tenants to only use commercial dishwashers for full loads and install low flow toilets in restrooms.

Newer energy and water efficient toilet models are available. When selecting new appliances, check the water and energy efficiency ratings in the manufacturer's specifications or consumer magazines and look for the Energy Star label.

Did you know that our toilets could have a leak that we may not even know about? Leaky toilets waste a lot of water! And don't use your toilet as a wastepaper basket. It just wastes water and money.

To test toilets for invisible leaks, place a few drops of food coloring or a dye table into the toilet's tank. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes (do not flush) and if the coloring appears in the bowl, you have a leaky toilet! To repair this, the flush valve ("flapper") or the valve seat may need to be cleaned or replaced. Parts are inexpensive and easy to install. If you cannot replace the toilets in your building, consider reducing the volume of each flush by placing a toilet dam or a water-filled plastic bottle weighted with gravel in the tank if you have not already installed 1.6 gallon toilets. Be sure not to interfere with the flushing mechanism. (Note: do not use bricks as they might disintegrate.)

Faucets and Showerheads

A faucet or showerhead that drips just two tablespoons per minute can waste 15 gallons per day, which is 105 gallons per week or 5,460 gallons per year! So remember to fix those leaky faucets or showerheads. Worn out washers are the main causes of most dripping faucets or showerheads. They are inexpensive and easy to install.

Faucet aerators that mix air with tap water can reduce the flow to 1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute. Without the aerators, the faucet uses 3 to 7 gallons per minute. Installing a faucet aerator is a simple procedure that can reduce your water usage.

Some showerheads may still use 3 to 7 gallons or more per minute. If you have not installed a showerhead that uses 1.5 gallons or less, you are missing out on an excellent way to save water and energy without sacrificing the benefits of a satisfying shower.

Check under sinks, behind washing machines and around basement plumbing for suspicious looking wet areas. Leaks not only waste water, they could be damaging walls, floors and ceilings.

  • Water lawns only when needed.
  • A good way to find out if it's time to water is to step on it. If it springs back up, no watering is needed. If it remains flat, it is time to water. The best time to water lawns is early morning (4 to 6 AM.) Watering in the middle of the day will mean the water may not soak in and could leave grass open to disease from mildew and fungus.
  • Don't water when it is windy. Water will go everywhere not on the lawn.
  • Make sure that the sprinkler is aimed at the lawn and not the street or sidewalk.
  • Use a trigger nozzle on outside hoses. When you are not using the hose, the water will be turned off.
  • The blades on you mower should be set to 2-3 inches or more. Longer grass keeps more moisture because it shades the roots. Longer grass also helps a root grow deeper, needs less fertilizer and competes better against weeds.
  • There are ways to poke holes in lawn to help water soak in and stay in the soil. This is called aeration. This should be done in the spring and fall.
  • Mulch helps keep water in the soil and cuts down on weeds that could compete with plants for moisture. Mulching also cuts down water evaporation from soil.
  • Shrubs, flowers and vegetables that need lots of moisture should be planted near each other to save time and water. ALSO, plan gardens and plantings based on where areas are hot/sunny, cool/shady, moist, dry, etc. For example, if you have a hot, dry zone, select plants that can last in hot, dry conditions.
  • There are many kinds of low water-use plants that can stand dry summers and really grow well in drier soil. Check out the Massachusetts Horticulture website at www.masshort.org for more information.
  • Use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose in gardens that need the most water: vegetables, fruits, newly planted trees and shrubs, and some flower gardens. A soaker hose is a canvas or rubber hose with small holes in it. It works best when it lies on top or slightly below soil level and mulch is placed over the soil and hose. You can put in the hose in the spring and leave it in place all season. Drip irrigation can use 30%-70% less water than overhead sprinkler systems. In general, use the drip irrigation or soaker hose methods until the soil is moist 3-4 inches below the surface.
  • Place rain barrels or other large containers under downspouts to collect rain water to use for watering your garden. Use a lid, mesh fabric, or several drops of baby oil on the surface of the water to prevent mosquito breeding.
For more outdoor water conservation tips, see the MWRA's brochure.

The water from Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is lead-free when it leaves the reservoirs. MWRA and local BWSC pipes that carry water are made mostly of iron and steel, and so they do not add lead to water. But, lead can get into tap water through pipes going into the home. The material used to connect pieces of plumbing and some brass fixtures may have lead in them. When pipes wear away, these materials can add lead into tap water. That can happen if water sits for a long time in the pipes before we use it.

Find out if you need to take action in a building and have the drinking water tested to find out if it has too much lead. Testing the water is important because you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water.

Visit the MWRA for a list of state certified laboratories that can test your drinking water for lead or call BWSC's Lead Hotline at (617) 989-7888.

Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) promises to provide high quality water and sewer services at the lowest possible cost to our commercial customers. When someone steals water, the BWSC cannot keep this promise all the time.

Remember: We all pay when someone steals water. Learn more Water Theft

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