Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do you know your water bill?

When you turn on a faucet, run a load of laundry or wash the car are you thinking about how much water you are using? Or what it costs? When they get a water bill, most Georgians simply look at the total amount due, write a check and never think twice.

“By educating yourself on the basics of your utility’s rates and rate structure, you can determine how your water bill is calculated, double check to make sure you are being charged the correct amount and make the most cost-effective decisions for reducing your bill through water conservation,” said Brian Kiepper, a biological and agricultural engineer with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Other than the total amount due, the item on your bill you should pay most attention to is your water consumption, he said. If monitored from month to month, you should be able to see a trend in how much water your household uses. Once you get an idea of your average monthly consumption, it is easier to notice if something is wrong with your bill, especially in the case of leaks.

Kiepper also suggests performing home water audits to track how much water you are using. This will make you more aware of what household tasks use the most water and help you find ways to reduce consumption. A simple Internet search for “home water audits” will point you to several free Web sites showing how you can do one.

It is important to make sure you are not being billed for a service you don’t receive. Many households that receive their water from a utility have their wastewater treated by an on-site septic system. In these cases, check your water bill to be sure you aren’t being charged for sewer services that you don’t use.

If your wastewater does go to the local sewer system, it is important to note that since it is difficult to measure how much sewage you put out, water and sewage companies use the amount of water you are consuming to calculate your bill. This happens whether the water goes down a drain or is used to water the plants.

The amount you pay for water and sewer services in Georgia varies based on location. Most utilities charge a base rate. The base rate covers water consumption up to a certain amount of water, typically 2,000 gallons. If you use more than the base amount, then other rates are applied. The rate for your water can increase, decrease or stay the same once you exceed the base rate. The best way to find out the charges and rates is to contact your utility provider directly and ask.

Knowing how much water you use compared to the base rate is important because you could be using more water without having to pay more for it. If you have a leak, the charge alone will not reflect that you are wasting water if the amount of water lost is still under your base rate. By monitoring your consumption amount, you can help conserve water.

It can be hard to compare bills from different utility providers because there are many different variables that can affect them, he said. Because of this, what you pay for water may be nowhere near the state average despite moderate water usage.

Rather than comparing yourself to someone else, Kiepper stresses the importance of becoming familiar with your system and understanding how your family uses water. Then you can make the appropriate changes to your lifestyle to make sure you aren’t paying for water you could live without.

By Andrea Gonzalez
University of Georgia

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Volatile October sets record temps in Georgia

Northern Georgia continued to see wet conditions as the southeastern part of the state dried in October. Several record high and low temperatures were set with an active weather pattern that sent both warm and cold fronts moving across the state.

Scattered locations along a line north of Columbus to Rabun Gap received in excess of 10 inches of rain in October. Below-normal rain amounts were reported in southern Georgia, with the lowest reported in Brunswick (2.15 inches, or 1.76 inches below normal), according to radar estimates. None of the rainfall was from tropical cyclones.

The highest monthly total from National Weather Service reporting stations was 9.14 inches in Athens (5.67 inches above normal). Atlanta received 8.71 inches (5.60 inches above normal), Macon 6.37 inches (4 inches above normal), Columbus 6.39 inches (4.06 inches above normal), Augusta 5.10 inches (1.9 inches above normal), Savannah 3.41 inches (.29 inch above normal), and Alma 2.71 inches (.08 inch below normal).

Fifty-three stations with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS, reported 10 inches of rain or more for their monthly totals. The highest was 12.38 inches near LaGrange in Troup County. Other monthly rainfall totals more than 12 inches were reported at Emma, Stockbridge and Manchester. The highest 24-hour rainfall was 4.5 inches, reported east of Gainesville in Hall County Oct. 12.

The Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring site at Alpharetta in Fulton County reported 10.84 inches for the month, including 3.84 inches on the Oct. 12 and 2.19 inches on Oct. 27.

Lake Lanier reached full pool mid-month for the first time since Sept. 6, 2005. Lake Allatoona was 12 feet above full pool.

Daily record maximum rainfalls occurred on several days. At official NWS airport stations, Atlanta broke a daily record with 2.5 inches and Athens 3.84 inches on Oct. 12. Columbus set daily records Oct. 14 and 27.

Temperatures across the state were variable. In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 61 degrees (1.8 degrees below normal), in Athens 60.7 degrees (1.1 degrees below normal), Columbus 64.5 degrees (1.3 degrees below normal), Macon 64.5 degrees (.6 degree above normal), Savannah 68.5 degrees (1.5 degrees above normal), Brunswick 71.5 degrees (1.9 degree above normal), Alma 68.9 degrees (.4 degree above normal) and Augusta 63.2 degrees (.1 degree above normal). In general, the coolest spots were where the most rain occurred.

Savannah reported a record high temperature of 93 degrees Oct. 9. Augusta, Savannah and Alma reported record low temperatures in the 50s and 60s Oct. 17. Athens had a record low temperature of 33 degrees and Macon tied its low temperature of 35 degrees Oct. 19. Scattered frost occurred in northern, low-lying locations during this cold outbreak.

There was one tornado reported. The EF-1 tornado touched down south of Americus and severely damaged a grocery store Oct. 15. More than 100 trees were snapped.

The heavy rainfall damaged many rural roads during the month. A motorist sustained minor injuries near Glennville when wind toppled a tree onto the car Oct. 27. There were scattered reports of strong winds or small hail somewhere in Georgia on 4 days. Flooding occurred in low-lying areas Oct. 13 with the heavy rainfalls and storms across northern Georgia. Dense fog in Atlanta Oct. 27 caused multiple traffic accidents during the morning commute.

The rains in northern Georgia caused problems for farmers trying to harvest hay and other crops. Many counties reported problems with rot in the cotton and hay and sprouted corn that was exposed to wet conditions. Peanuts in central Georgia were reported to be on track for a record late harvest. Fieldwork came to a stop in many areas. In other areas of the state the rain was beneficial to crops and harvesting was proceeding at a good pace.

By Pam Knox
University of Georgia

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