Valley businesses, residents cut water use

Experts say education is one of many reasons for a decline in use.

sberg@idahostatesman.comMay 6, 2013 

Teaching roles are often reversed when it comes to water conservation.

Children learn about using less water at school and they tell their parents about the lessons they’ve learned.

“And if you’re spending a little extra time with the water running while you’re brushing your teeth, they’ll let you know about it,” said Neal Oldemeyer, Boise public works director and father of three boys.

Five years ago on May 15, the city of Boise opened the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center. Since then, the center has pushed the message of conserving water and protecting it from contamination to 100,000 people, mostly students.

Boise WaterShed Exhibits, founded by Donna-Marie Hayes, raised more than $1.2 million from private businesses and individuals, foundations and government agencies to pay for the center. Today, the WaterShed offers a sequence of educational videos, activities and interactive models to show visitors where water comes from, where it goes, how to protect it and how to save it.

“It’s a phenomenal facility and it helps bring awareness of the resource and the process of treating that resource, whether it be water or what are we doing with wastewater, to a wide audience,” said Mark Snider, spokesman for United Water, which serves about 240,000 Treasure Valley customers. “They’re great, hands-on fun, but there’s an educational component there that I think sticks.”

United Water was one of several private companies that contributed money to establish the WaterShed.

Snider said United Water’s average metered connection used nearly 30,000 gallons less of potable water in 2012 than in 2000. That’s about 2.5 billion gallons across the utility’s system, or enough to satisfy 29,000 additional connections.

Cindy Busche, an education coordinator at the WaterShed since it opened, said it’s gratifying to hear that people and businesses around the Treasure Valley are using less water.

“It makes us feel like maybe our message is reaching the right people,” Busche said.

Education is one of many factors in declining water use among homes and businesses. Smaller family sizes, more efficient appliances, local ordinances and economic turmoil have contributed, Snider said.

Declining water use among the utility’s customers is a symptom of a wider consciousness about all kinds of conservation, he said, including recycling and energy use.

“And the thing is, we’re not unique,” Snider said. “If you look at the water industry nationwide, everybody is seeing the same kind of pattern.”

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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