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Letter to the Editor: Proposal for reducing water use

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The August 19, 2019 Council Report concluded that in 2020 the City of Ferndale will have the third highest water/sewer/storm rate in Whatcom County (out of 9 jurisdictions).  Potable water and wastewater plants are needed but simultaneously, there exist other economically smart solutions such as reducing water consumption and recycling water consumed.

During my years working as an engineer in Whatcom County, I had the opportunity to give some serious thought to this crucial problem and I would like to propose the following practical ideas that will help to reduce potable water consumption in the City of Ferndale:

  1. Provide incentives such as reducing water connection fees to the homebuilders if a Rainwater Harvesting System (RWHS) is installed.  The system will provide water for irrigation and toilets.  The program will benefit residents as follows:
  2. Reduce the City of Ferndale’s water consumption
  3. Reduce the homeowner’s water and sewer bill
  4. Provide the homebuilder a green product to sell
  5. Recycle treated wastewater instead of discharging it to the Nooksack River.  The city should use as much of this water as possible to:
  1. Irrigate the Tosco Fields
  2. Possibly sell to farmers for irrigation
  3. Provide a greywater system for Central Elementary School, the Senior Center and the Boys and Girls Club. This greywater system could be used for irrigation and possibly toilets (yet a cost analysis would be necessary for the plumbing retrofit to determine if use in toilets would be viable).
  4. Provide a greywater system for the new developments within the downtown core including the future City Hall which can be used for irrigation and toilets.

The result is a WIN, WIN WIN!!!

  • Provide an incentive to homeowners to replace the high flow toilets with new, low-flow toilets.

Generally, 30% of water consumption goes to toilets.  New low-flow toilets can reduce water consumption by up to 50%, providing an overall water-use reduction of 15%.  On a large scale this reduction is significant.  If we considered a program that replaces the toilets in 3,000 residences with low-flow toilets (at an average of 2 toilets per residence) the cost is around one million dollars. The question is how much the city would save compared to the cost of the toilet replacement.  The incentive discussed above could pay for part of the replacement, and the owners that elect to participate pay for the rest.  In addition, due to a large volume of residents replacing toilets, the city could negotiate with the wholesalers a discounted price.

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These ideas could be gradually implemented through a series of small pilot programs and their results evaluated before being applied at a larger scale.  The goal is to be sustainable and find effective ways to reduce the need for additional infrastructure and save our citizens money in the long run.

Ramon Llanos, P.E., M.Sc , LSIT
Candidate for Ferndale City Council

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  1. Aron T. August 21, 2019

    Or….maybe the City could stop rubber stamping development projects hand over fist? Water usage is becoming unsustainable because the pipeline of future demand is bursting; our conservation efforts are being drained by developers with the City’s assistance. That’s not leadership.

  2. MFegan August 21, 2019

    While I agree with you that we need to work on ways to conserve water in our community, I would like to see the City focus on supporting and incentivizing water conservation methods for our current residents.
    I support adding systems such as those you describe to new developments, which would reduce the NEW strains on our water system, but it will do little to address the needs of those who already own or rent their homes here. As a community, instead of asking residents for more subsidies for developers, I believe we should focus our efforts to support and incentivize our current residents’ water conservation efforts.
    Let’s work on ways to incentivize the replacement of fixtures in homes such as toilets (as you mentioned), as well as faucets, showerheads, and appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. Let’s work on promoting and incentivizing the use of rain barrels to irrigate gardens and landscaping, and let’s promote the use of native species of plants and grasses in yards so we can reduce consumption of water for maintaining healthy-looking lawns.
    Edit or delete this

  3. John Courtade August 22, 2019

    Low-flow toilet solving this issue in any meaningful way are, at best, a pipe-dream (couldn’t resist). It usually requires multiple flushes to deal solid waste, negating all or most of the water savings they are supposd to provide.

  4. Ron P Warren August 22, 2019

    Low flow toilets dont work, haven’t you watched king of the hill ,everybody knows that.

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