Why Water Conservation is Critical to our System
Groundwater Withdrawal Limits and Meeting Real-Time Demand
Tauxemont has annual and monthly limits on the groundwater we draw from our aquifer source. These are legal water withdrawal limits and TCA must remain within them. If not, TCA is subject to fines (from one to several thousand dollars) for exceeding our legally-permitted volume (under increased civil penalties, adopted by the state, that are intended to improve conservation of natural water supplies, including our aquifer).
Every TCA waterworks customer is responsible for conservation of our water, year round. To relate TCA water user rates to our system’s annual limits - approx. 250 gallons are available, per house, per day. An average U.S. household (defined as single family dwelling with 2.5 baths and 4 people) with modern water appliances uses about 140 gallons of water a day for indoor uses. This provides some perspective on the need to reduce indoor water consumption.
Outdoor water use, especially during the hot, dry summer months of May thru October, requires even more prudence. During this peak season, demand can easily spike with the additional watering of lawns, gardens, and plants. Not only does this cause our withdrawal amount to increase, but the potential for a temporary well condition known as the ‘Cone of Depletion’ increases as well. This condition happens when water levels drop rapidly due to a large drawdown (such as if all water users watered their lawns and gardens at the same time) and the inability of the aquifer surrounding the well intake to replenish water quickly enough to meet demand. This depletion condition would impact the entire community. To help ensure that this does not occur, all waterworks customers are responsible for following our ‘Odd/Even House Number Watering System’' below.
TCA strives to meet real-time demand for water supply at any given time. Tauxemont community members work together to understand, protect, and manage our water production. Every water users’ conservation efforts, year-round, are critical in helping TCA meet that need and help TCA remain within its legal limits for water withdrawal.
Water User’s Conservation Responsibilities
1. Keep your daily water usage within your limits (approx. 250 gallons, per house, per day). To help you meet this goal (combined indoor and outdoor use) TCA recommends following the guidelines of these two water conservation programs:
a. EPA’s WaterSense Program (www.epa.gov/watersense) - provides information for indoor and outdoor conservation, including updating bathroom fixtures with WaterSense-labeled products, and steps to creating a water-smart landscape.
b. Alliance for Water Efficiency (www.home-water-works.org) - offers a Water Calculator to help you understand how and where you can use less water, along with simple tips for helping you use water efficiently, inside and outside, every day.
2. Follow TCA’s Odd/Even House Number Watering System. Odd-numbered houses water lawns and gardens only on odd-numbered days; even-numbered houses water lawns and gardens only on even-numbered days). Following this staggered system from May through October enables us to reduce demand on the system and avoid depletion conditions from over-withdrawal.
3. Fill swimming pools with commercially-purchased water. To fill an empty swimming pool, initially or after a repair, purchase water from a commercial provider. Thereafter, pools may be ‘topped off’ with Tauxemont water during evening hours or during non-peak usage times (before May 15 or after October 15).
4. Carefully consider irrigation system planning. TCA strongly discourages the installation of automatic irrigation (sprinkler) systems, which use approx. 50% more water outdoors than homes without and, of that 50%, waste half of the water applied to the landscape.
Water utilities throughout the U.S. are struggling with the demands of outdoor watering, adopting limits on lawns and irrigation systems. According to the Water Research Foundation, outdoor use is about 50,000 gallons on average a year, per household, with landscaping. Better landscaping techniques (that minimize turf grass in favor of drought-resistant grasses and plants) and reduced use of auto-timed irrigation systems are the primary means identified to reduce outdoor use.
Waterworks customers who purchase a property with an existing system, and choose to use it, should ensure that your system clock is set to the TCA’s Odd/Even Watering schedule, your sprinkler heads are low volume and properly aligned to target specific growing zones - and away from hardscapes - to minimize run-off, you are using rain sensors, your system has no leaks, and watering times are no longer than 15-30 minute intervals. TCA recommends that you have your system reviewed by a professional certified by the EPA’s WaterSense program to ensure conservation measures are being taken to reduce water use, run-off, and pooling.
If a new installation is planned, the homeowner must notify the TCA Board or Water Committee Chair 30 days in advance to allow sufficient time to work with the water committee to identify connections and pipes to the home and ensure that there is no disruption in water service to the homeowner or community. Installation guidelines should be followed closely to prevent back flow contamination to TCA’s water system. A drip irrigation system, vs. a spray system, should be chosen. Engage a professional certified by the EPA’s WaterSense program to evaluate the irrigation system design and ensure that conservation measures are taken to reduce water use, run-off, and pooling.
Maintaining Tauxemont’s Unique Landscape
Creating and maintaining a water-smart landscape is not only a conservation measure, but part of the Tauxemont philosophy. Since it’s establishment over 75 years, Tauxemonters have worked to preserve our community’s beautiful, wooded landscape.
Minimizing turfgrass areas and incorporating native grasses and plants that are able to withstand drought is the backbone of Tauxemont’s natural beauty. Caring for aging trees and planting new native trees helps maintain our shade canopy and prevent ground erosion. Landscaping choices favoring permeable materials over impervious surfaces allow for natural water retention.
Following the guidelines provided by the EPA WaterSense’s program (www.epa.gov/watersense) and Alliance for Water Efficiency’s project (www.home-water-works.org) for water-smart landscaping makes it possible for every Tauxemonter to help keep our unique landscape thriving.
Water Conservation & Efficiency Tips
Outside your home:
Since the Washington, D.C. area is currently experiencing historic levels of rainfall, we urge water users to restrain from outdoor watering when possible.
1. Avoid watering your lawn and plants during the hottest part of the day or when it is windy to minimize water losses from evaporation.
2. Use simple, low-cost metering devices (available from a hardware store) that limit watering times automatically to 15-30 minute intervals. Do not leave watering unattended or unmetered for more than 30 minutes.
3. Collect rainwater in rain barrels to use for watering plants and gardens. To learn how to harvest water in barrels, attend Build-Your-Own workshops, or purchase a pre-made barrel visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/soil-water-conservation/rain-barrel.
4. Re-use “gray” water from dishwashing, etc. to water plants and gardens.
5. Use a broom, rather than a hose, to clean sidewalks and driveways.
6. Avoid excessive watering. Virginia’s clay soil can only absorb about one inch of water per week, so using this small amount will keep native landscapes lush and prevent runoff from over-watering. Aerate clay soil yearly in order to help the soil retain moisture.
7. Maintain a lawn height of 2-1/2” to 3” to help protect the roots from heat stress and reduce the loss of moisture to evaporation. Promote deep root growth (requiring less water and results in more resistance to drought and disease) through a combination of proper watering, aerating, appropriate fertilization, thatch (grass clippings) control, and lawn height.
8. Reduce your amount of lawn (turfgrass) by planting drought-tolerant and climate-adapted plants and grasses.
9. Grow a natural scape that can withstand hot, dry summers in our clay soil. Designing a WaterSmart landscape that minimizes turfgrass areas and incorporates native grasses and plants is recommended by TCA. Guidelines for creating a beautiful, healthy, and easy to maintain landscape are on the websites of the EPA’s WaterSense Program (www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoors) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s project (www.home-water-works.org/landscape-irrigation).
10. When choosing plants, keep in mind that smaller ones require less water to become established.
11. Mulch around plants, bushes and trees to help the soil retain moisture, discourage the growth of weeds, and provide essential nutrients.
12. Plant in the Spring or Fall, when watering requirements are lower.
13. Use tree ‘gators’ (refillable, slow drip bags) for irrigating new young trees
14. Avoid planting turf in areas that are difficult to irrigate properly such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways.
15. Use a water conserving soaker hose, in the evening, for limited, targeted, effective watering.
16. Read the landscaping advice in our community’s monthly newsletter.
Inside your home:
17. Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator or in the microwave instead of under running water.
18. Only run the dishwasher and clothes washer when fully loaded. View more tips at www.home-water-works.org/water-conservation-tips/home.
19. Convert to low-water use fixtures (this could reduce our water usage by 25%, or 5,000 gallons per day, community-wide).
20. Fix dripping faucets (which can waste about 2,000 gallons of water a year) and leaking toilets (leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons a day).
Water Conservation Resources
EPA WaterSense Program - www.epa.gov/watersense. This program provides information on choosing WaterSense labeled products that conserve water in and around your home. View ‘Watering Wisely Tips’ for irrigation system conservation, and ‘Irrigation with a Pro’ to find certified irrigation professionals.
EPA WaterSense Program/How We Use Water - www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water. View statistics on U.S. household indoor water use and understand your own use.
EPA WaterSense Program/Outdoors - www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoors. Simple steps for creating a water-smart landscape that’s beautiful, healthy, and easy to maintain.
Water Footprint Calculator - www.watercalculator.org/footprints/water-conservation-efficiency/. Learn the difference between water conservation and efficiency, plus lots of other water use and savings information.
Water Research Foundation - www.waterrf.org/PublicReportLibrary/4309A.pdf. This 2016 report to water providers demonstrates the need for lower water use for single-family homes.
Alliance for Water Efficiency Home Water Works project - www.home-water-works.org. This organization’s website is chock-full of water conservation tips for inside and outside of your home, including a Water Calculator.
Alliance for Water Efficiency Home Water Works project - www.home-water-works.org/water-conservation-tips/home. Tips for residential water savings.
Plant NOVA Natives - www.plantnovanatives.org. A guide to native plants and landscaping solutions geared to our specific landscape.
U.S. Dept. of the Interior - offers this publication on weather- and soil moisture-based irrigation technology: www.usbr.gov/watersmart/docs/2018/6thEd_WeatherSoilMoistureBasedLandscapeIrrigationSchedulingDevices.pdf
Association of Professional Landscape Designers - recommends alternatives to traditional lawns that require less water, chemicals, and maintenance in these two publications: www.apld.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Lawns_brochure.pdf and www.apld.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Guidelines-Environmental-Brochure.pdf.
WSSC - www.wsscwater.com/customer-service/rates/water-usage.html. This web page shows outdoor water consumption rates for sprinklers and automatic irrigation systems, and indoor consumption rates of daily activities.
Virginia Cooperative Extension - www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-713/426-713.html. A Guide for creating a Water-Wise landscape.
Fairfax County - www.fairfaxcounty.gov/soil-water-conservation/rain-barrel. Instructions and workshops for creating a rain barrel to capture rainwater.
Additional resources can be found on the Water System page of this website.