In this week’s news briefs, a National Science Foundation study looks further at how evapotranspiration plays into the water use picture in California, and Pennsylvania American Water takes steps to eliminate lead service lines for its customers


A new study sheds some light on water conservation in California as the state continues to recover from its multi-year drought.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, shows considerable water loss through evapotranspiration stemming from the overwatering of trees and lawns, with most of that loss coming from lawns. The study was based on measurements taken in the summer of 2010 around Los Angeles, prior to water restriction mandates. Lawns accounted for 70 percent of the loss, while trees were much more water efficient, accounting for 30 percent.

“It’s surprising that we can maintain the tree canopy of L.A. with relatively little water,” says Diane Pataki, one of the researchers behind the study. “There’s this assumption that we need abundant irrigation to support trees. But we can drastically reduce water use and still have trees.”

Related: Unmetered Californians Impact Attempts to Restrict Water Use

Watering restrictions are no longer in place following California’s wet winter, but state officials have still pushed for water conservation, especially since groundwater levels are far from recovered.

“Whether the drought changed people’s landscape preferences in a lasting way, that’s something we still need to find out,” Pataki says.

Source: National Science Foundation

Related: Could California Run Out of Water?

South Dakota Sewer Worker Saved in Trench Collapse
A trench collapsed on a sewer worker last week in Emery, South Dakota, but co-workers were able to save the man.

According to a report in the Daily Republic, the man was working on a water and sewer replacement project Tuesday, May 23, when the trench collapsed, completely covering him.

“His hand was sticking out, but he was completely covered besides that,” Emery Fire Chief Brian Leitheiser told the Daily Republic. “The guys from the company dug him out and they did an excellent job — a big difference-maker. It could have been a lot worse.”

Related: Water Conservation Is All In The Game

A crew of about nine cleared the man’s head quickly, but it took about 30 minutes to completely uncover him. The extent of his injuries are unknown, but Leitheiser said the man was conscious and able to move and talk to responders.

The Daily Republic report does not indicate what caused the trench collapse or whether all the proper safety measures had been taken.

Hanson County Emergency Manager Kevin Kayser said recent wet weather could have been a factor.

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“There’s no real answer, but everything is kind of wet and when things are wet, this kind of stuff just happens,” Kayser said.

Source: Daily Republic

Pennsylvania Utility Proposes Expansive Lead Pipe Replacement Plan
Pennsylvania American Water is seeking permission from the Public Utility Commission to replace customer’s lead service lines, using an extra charge for the entire customer base to help cover the expense.

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According to a report in the Times-Tribune, Pennsylvania American Water, which serves 2.3 million people across the state, is allocating $6 million annually to replace both its portion and the customer’s portion of service lines. It estimates it can replace 1,800 lines each year.

“With this filing, we are taking an important first step toward a long-term solution to eliminate lead service lines that exist within our communities’ water infrastructure,” Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre said in a statement. “Lead service lines largely remain in older neighborhoods where the prohibitive costs often prevent homeowners from replacing them.”

The utility will do replacements at a customer’s request or at the same time it is replacing its portion of the line. Costs would be recouped through the Distribution System Improvement Charge, which allows the utility to collect for expenses that exceed what it gets with its base rates. The utility says it would be about 11 cents per customer each month.

Source: Times-Tribune


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