By Don Zdeba
“There is a thin line between using water and wasting water.”
The idiom, “Waste Not, Want Not” means if you use a commodity or resource carefully and without extravagance you will never be in need. If the drought years California experienced from 2011 to 2017 taught us anything, it is that we need to be cognizant of how we use water in our daily lives. In June 2016, the Board of Directors of Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) approved a voluntary 20% conservation goal even though, by State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) criteria, we were able to qualify for a 0% target based on having adequate groundwater supplies to meet our customer demand for the next three successive years. It is noteworthy our customers have exceeded that goal and have averaged 22.5% to date. Given our complete dependence on local groundwater and the mandated conservation requirements that had been imposed by the SWRCB during the drought, the Board of Directors recognized we were in a new reality and conservation needed to become a way of life.
In addition to providing tips and resources to assist our customers to conserve water, we had to look at our internal practices for opportunities as well. One opportunity we identified was the requirement to flush pipelines through fire hydrants and “blow offs”. The process of periodically “flushing” water lines is an important preventive maintenance activity necessary to maintain the integrity of the water system. IWVWD’s distribution system is a network of pipes and storage tanks where sediment or deposits may naturally accumulate over time. If not removed, these materials may cause water quality degradation, taste and odor problems or discoloration of the water. Water may also stagnate in less-used parts of the distribution system such as “dead ends”. This can result in degraded water quality. The normal flow of water through the system will reduce some, but not all of these accumulation and stagnation problems over time, thus supplemental measures are periodically needed to clear out the system. Systematic flushing through fire hydrants in a unidirectional fashion is an effective way to accomplishing needed cleaning. The flushing often made it necessary to discharge large volumes of water onto the ground. When practical, we did make an effort to collect the flushed water in a water truck and spray it onto unmaintained dirt roads to reduce dust.
It was while looking for ways to reduce waste that we became aware of a company called NO-DES, Inc. based in New Mexico. NO-DES stands for Neutral Output-Discharge Elimination System. The NO-DES flushing method is an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional water main flushing. Water quality is improved without wasting millions of gallons because water is filtered between hydrants and never flushed onto the ground. IWVWD applied for and was able to secure $200,000 in funding from the SWRCB through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to purchase a NO-DES truck. Perhaps you have seen it operating in your neighborhood (see photo). In addition to eliminating water waste, the NO-DES removes bio-film and particulate matter such as sand while adding disinfection through chlorination. It eliminates costly erosional damage to streets or property from flushing large amounts of water. Perhaps one of the most noticeable benefits of regular flushing of the pipelines is improvement in water quality and taste as attested to by some of our customers. It is also a visual demonstration that we are working with you to use our local water supply wisely. Since it was put in service in 2017, the NO-DES unit has saved over 6 million gallons of water through the end of February. That is enough water to meet the needs of up to 37 average households for a year! The NO-DES is truly a success story we are proud to share.
For tips on how your household can be more water efficient, I encourage you to visit our website, www.iwvwd.com, or come by our office for literature and water saving devices we have available free of charge. We will have these items available at the 2020 Home and Leisure Show at the Desert Empire Fairground March 21st and 22nd. Please stop by.