Saving water, and thus saving money, isn't hard to do. Shorter showers. Aiming your sprinkler at the lawn, not the sidewalk. Xeriscaping. Retrofitting your toilet with a dual-flush device.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency offers a wealth of information on reducing household water use, as does the City of Chicago Dept. of Environment. Additionally, city staff is available to lead water efficiency workshops, and is hosting one this Saturday, Jan. 16, in Chicago's 47th Ward:
Don't be a Drip: Water Efficiency Basics
Co-Sponsored by Ald. Gene Schulter
Saturday, Jan. 16
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Sulzer Library (Lewis Learner Auditorium)
4455 N. Lincoln Ave.
RSVP to email@example.com
I'm making the trip up from Hyde Park to check it out, and hope to see you there. If you like it, contact your alderman about scheduling a workshop in your ward.
All of this, of course, presumes your water bill is actually associated with your water use, and in Chicago itself, that's no safe assumption. Approximately 350,000 single-family and two-flat homes in Chicago have no water meters, so your monthly bill is not based on your consumption. Instead your bill is based on a flat rate, which in turn is assessed based on the age and size of your home, as well as its estimated number of water fixtures. Chicago does have a plan, called MeterSave, to install these "missing" water meters, and offers a number of incentives to encourage volunteers. If you don't have a meter, you should check it out.
Residents of larger multifamily buildings, in general, are even less likely to pay for the water they actually use. Instead, the building's total consumption is divided by the number of units, and everyone pays the same amount. This provides a disincentive for conservation and efficient use. The Portland Water Bureau offers some valuable insight into submetering—this would be a good topic for discussion at your next condominium association meeting or with your landlord.
The Chicago region's water supply is finite and under constant pressure from growing demand. We all have a role to play in ensuring sustainable water supplies, which is why MPC is excited about the forthcoming Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply Plan, which is in its final draft (see the Jan. 26 draft on this page). Our recent report with Openlands, Before the Wells Run Dry, offers further recommendations on how federal, state, regional and local policy and practice can protect our shared water resources.
Ultimately, however, water conservation starts at home. So get informed, take action, and then tell your friends about all the money you're saving.