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Tips for Winter Water Conservation

Don’t Let Cold Weather Catch You Unprepared!
Every winter, many homeowners face the expense and inconvenience of frozen water pipes. But you can cross that off your list of winter worries by taking a few simple precautions:
• Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Detaching a hose allows water to drain from the faucet. Otherwise, a single, hard overnight freeze can burst either the faucet or the pipe it’s connected to.
• Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas. If you have pipelines in the attic, an unheated garage or cold crawl space under the house, wrap the water pipes before temperatures plummet. Hardware or building supply stores will have good pipe wrapping materials available.
• Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks. Winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes.
• Find the master shutoff. It is where the water line comes out of the meter box at the street. If a pipe bursts anywhere in the house – kitchen, bath, basement or crawl space – this valve turns it off. So find it now. Be sure everyone in the family knows where it is and what it does.
• In severe cold weather, you may want to allow a faucet to drip a small continuous stream.

What if it's too late?
• What if you wake up one day to find the pipes are frozen anyway? During an extended cold spell, it can happen despite precautions. Do you have the plumber's telephone number handy? Write it down now before you need it in an emergency.
• If you think you know where the freeze-up occurred and want to try thawing it yourself, do not under any circumstances use a torch with an open flame. The whole house could catch fire. Also, overheating a single spot can burst the pipe. Heating a soldered joint could allow it to leak or come completely apart.
• The easiest tool is probably a hair dryer with a high heat setting. Wave the warm air back and forth along the pipe, not on one spot. If you don't have a hair dryer, you can wrap the frozen section with rags or towels and pour hot water over them. It's messy, but it works. Be careful because the pipe may already be broken. It's not leaking because the water is frozen. But when you thaw it out, water could come gushing out. Be ready to run for the master shutoff valve if necessary. Better yet, turn the valve off while undertaking your thaw-out effort.
• The main thing is to take precautions before cold weather arrives.
• Source: American Water Works Association



Tips for Road Salt and Ways to Help Water Quality

When snow and ice melts, the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. It takes only one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no way to remove the chloride, and at high concentrations, chloride can harm fish and plant life. Less is more when it comes to applying road salt.

Here are four tips for keeping salt use down:
1) Shovel first. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be. Then, break up ice with an ice scraper and decide if application of a de-icer or sand is even necessary to maintain traction.

2) Slow down. Drive for winter conditions, and be courteous to slow-moving plows. The slower they drive, the more salt will stay on the road where it's needed.

3) Use sparingly. More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than four pounds

of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet). One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. And be patient: salt takes time to work. Applying more will lead to unnecessary contamination. 

4) Wait for warm weather. Most salts stop doing their job when the temperature is below 15 degrees. Instead, use sand for traction in frigid conditions. Sweep up extra salt. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement, it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away. The excess can be swept up and reused for the next snow or disposed of in the trash.

This page last updated on 3/7/2019.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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