Conservation drives up water prices

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Water conservation yields higher rates
Thanks to lower-flow showerheads and a growing sense of thrift when it comes to watering lawns, water conservation is working around the Twin Cities.

 People are using less water.

 And the reward?

 Higher water bills.

 St. Paul Regional Water Services, which serves the capital city and several surrounding communities, has proposed a rate increase of roughly 5.5 percent, which would cost the average family $10.56 next year, according to the department’s estimates. The St. Paul City Council will hold a public hearing.

 Minneapolis has proposed a 4.9 percent hike, which would cost users of its water — including suburbs such as Bloomington, Golden Valley and Columbia Heights — about $14.40 a year, if approved, according its department’s estimates.

 In both cities, the past several years have shown a steady trickle of rate increases. In a trend that’s playing out across the country, municipal water departments are tapping their customers for more money to use less water, according to officials and studies.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press



 $25 toilet modification saves water
Michael Schuster grew up in the family plumbing business, and he quickly noticed the amount of water wasted with every flush of a toilet.

 “Four out of five times you flush, it’s for flushing liquid and paper, and you’re using twice as much water as you need,” said Schuster, who started his own company, MJSI Inc., six years ago to start developing solutions to the waste issue.

 To help conserve water, Schuster developed HydroRight, a drop-in converter for toilets featuring a Quick Flush setting that uses lower water volumes for liquids and paper. A second, Full Flush, button uses the normal amount of water for solids. The HydroRight retails for less than $25 at retailers such as Ace Hardware, True Value and Home Depot.

“HydroRight gives the toilet water-efficient performance without a sacrifice,” Schuster said. “We make conservation easy.”
–The Chicago Sun-Times

Iowa approves land-and-water amendment
Iowa voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment – somewhat similar to the one Minnesota voters approved in 2008 – that authorizes the Legislature to raise the sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to pay for new clean water and anti-pollution initiatives.

 But the Iowa tax increase does not require lawmakers to enact the sales tax increase. It provides that, if the Legislature raises the sales tax increase for any reason, the money for water and land conservation will start flowing into a special fund.  Read a Des Moines Register report on passage of the amendment.

 Chemicals affecting male fish in Minnesota
Endocrine disrupting chemicals were identified in all of the 11 Minnesota lakes studied by the U.S. Geological Survey, St. Cloud State University and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

 Female characteristics were observed in male fish in most of the lakes studied. Less than 10 percent of caged minnows placed in the lakes for 21 days showed signs of intersex, which can be caused by exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.

 Although endocrine disrupting chemicals and endocrine disruption in both resident fish and caged minnows were generally more pronounced in lakes surrounded by urban and agricultural lands, they were also identified in more remote lakes. Further studies are needed to determine if there is a link between the prevalence of these chemicals and surrounding land use. The full study can be found in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The lakes studied include Budd, Cedar, Elk, Kabetogama, Northern Light, Owasso, Red Sand, Shingobee, Stewart, Sullivan, and White Sand. 

 The journal article expands on a research results the MPCA released in 2009.
–U.S. Geological Survey news release