Newsletter- The Utility Pipeline

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Drinking Water Week May 7 - 13

Every year the American Water Works Association along with a number of other groups including the CDC and EPA sponsor Drinking Water Week to bring attention to the importance of tap water and protecting our water infrastructure.

Tap water is critical to a successful society – from meeting basic public health needs of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, to promoting dental health (through fluoridation) and supporting industrial, agricultural, medical, and recreational activities. The health, prosperity and longevity of the U.S. population have all made improvements during the past century which can all be directly attributed to improvements in our water quality.
One hundred years ago, the life expectancy in the United States was only 47 years – now it is 78 years! This shorter life span was due partially to sickness and death from diseases spread through poor drinking water. Over the last century, due to treatment, disinfection and the environmental regulation of water contaminants, tap water in the U.S. is one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world.

Our new challenge going forward is to protect our water supply. A growing concern is the fact that our drinking water infrastructure (which includes the pipes that bring water to our homes) is aging. It is up to 100 years old in some cases! This infrastructure needs to be upgraded or replaced. Other things that impact our water supply’s availability and quality are chemical and toxin contamination of our water sources, and the increasing need to reuse and recycle water.

We can all do our part through personal water conservation and pollution control and encouraging our Senate and Congress to continue to push for legislation which protects this precious resource.

A Few Facts About Water You Probably Didn't Know

On the planet Earth, there are about 1.5 billion cubic kilometers of water – that’s 1.5 billion trillion liters, or 800 trillion Olympic swimming pools. If the Earth’s water was evenly spread over its surface, it would have a depth of 3,700 meters. 97% of the Earth’s water is salty, 2.1% is locked up in polar ice caps, and less than 1% is available as fresh water.

The human body is between 60% and 70% water – this changes at different times of your life. A human fetus is around 95% water for the first few months in the womb, reducing to 77% water at birth. In a 154 pound adult, there are 42 liters of water. Two-thirds of that water is within your cells. Each human drinks around 1000 liters of water a year.

Some other things to ponder:
    • A five minute shower uses 200 liters of water.
    • We use 8 liters of water to flush a toilet.
    • To produce the coffee beans for one cup of coffee, it takes 200 liters of water.
    • To produce 2.2 lbs of beef, it takes 15,000 liters of water.
    • It takes 100 liters of water to make 2 slices of bread.
    • In the process of making one pint of beer, it takes 150 liters of water.
Water is a precious commodity. Without water, life cannot exist. We all need to do our part to conserve and preserve this precious resource.

Tips to Reduce Water Usage

To help conserve water due to the emergency drought situation in Kansas:
  • Take 5 minute or less showers.
  • Make sure dishwasher is full before running.
  • Check for any possible leaks:
    • A family of 4 should use around 12,000 gallons of water. If the usage is higher, a leak may be possible.
    • Check your meter before and after a 2 hour period of no water use. If the meter has changed, there might be a leak.
    • Check your pipe fittings under the kitchen sink for any water outside the pipe.
    • Check for "silent" toilet leaks by placing food coloring in the tank and wait to see if any color appears in the bowl.
    • Turn the water on in the shower and check for drips where the shower head meets the pipe stem.
    • Check the in ground sprinkler system to make sure there is no damage due to frost or freezing.
    • Turn faucet off while brushing teeth.
    • Wash full loads of laundry.

Grease - How it Affects the Sewer Pipes

Grease blockage in sewer pipe Grease is "hydrophobic," meaning it floats on top of water and adheres to other material such as a sewer pipe. Grease sticks to the insides of sewer pipes, in both private lines and public lines. Over time, the grease can build up and block large portions of the sewer line. Large amounts of oil and grease in waste water can cause sewer lift station failures, wastewater treatment plant problems and environmental concerns. As grease continues to build, large masses of grease break off and create a blockage downstream. Grease is one waste that the sewer system cannot handle. Grease has to be kept out of the system.

Grease blockage in sewer pipe

Grease in Pipe

Why Grease is a Problem

Grease, a byproduct of cooking comes from meat fats, lard, oil, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, baking goods, sauces and dairy products. When washed down the sink, grease sticks to the insides of sewer pipes on your property and public property. Overtime, grease will block the entire pipe. Home garbage disposals do NOT keep grease out of the plumbing system. Garbage disposals only shred solid material into smaller pieces and do not prevent grease from doing down the drain. Commercial additives, including detergents, claiming to dissolve grease may pass grease down the line and cause problems in other areas. The result can be:

  • Raw sewage overflowing in your home, your neighbor's home, or business;
  • An expensive and unpleasant cleanup that often must be paid for by you, the home or business owner;
  • Raw sewage overflowing into parks, yards and streets;
  • Potential contact with disease causing organisms;
  • An increase in operation and maintenance costs for local sewer departments, which causes higher sewer bills for customer;
  • Rancid odors

Do's and Do Nots for Grease Handling:



  • DO - place cooled cooking oil, poultry and meat fats in sealed non-recyclable containers and discard with regular garbage;
  • DO - use paper towels to wipe residual grease or oil off of dishes, pots and pans prior to washing them;
  • DO - use a grease can. Opened soup or vegetable cans work well for storage purposes. Pour grease and oil into a can and store in freezer until the can is full. Discard in the trash when the can is full.
  • DO NOT - use a garbage disposal or food grinder. Grinding food before rinsing down the drain does not remove food, oil and grease. It just makes the pieces smaller. Even non-greasy food scraps can plug your home's sewer lines. Do not put food of any kind down the drain.
  • DO NOT - pour cooking oil, pan drippings, bacon grease, salad dressings or sauces down the sink or toilet or into street gutters or storm drains.
  • DO NOT - use cloth towels or rags to scrape plates or clean greasy or oily dishware. When the rags are washed, the grease will end up in the sewer.
  • DO NOT - run water over dishes, pans, fryers and griddles to wash oil and grease down the drain.
  • DO NOT - dump cooking oil, poultry fat and grease into the kitchen sink or the toilet.
  • DO NOT - use hot water and soap to wash grease down the drain. The grease will cool and harden in your pipes or in the sewer down the line.
  • DO NOT - dump used fryer oil or motor oil into the street or house drains. When poured down house or storm drains, oil may travel to your local stream, bay or harbor where it can harm underwater vegetation and aquatic life.