A now and then publication
of the Pure Water Gazette &
Pure Water Products, LLC.
September 2006    #3

In this issue of the Occasional


Did you know that facts about water aren’t usually very factual? 

Because the Pure Water Gazette has been collecting water facts almost since water was discovered, we’ve noticed that the experts don’t always or even often agree when it comes to water. We suspect that the collecting of water facts is a lot like pontificating on the origins of the universe or the dating of ancient history: there is a lot of room for error, and if you get it wrong, who is to say?

As a case in point, the Gazette’s own in-house numerical wizard B. Bea Sharper has the following item on our front page:

Estimated number of leaks in Iraq’s national water distribution system: 500,000.

Percentage of the country’s water supply that is lost because of these leaks: 60%.

We do not know where B. B. got this information or for that matter how she or anyone else goes about counting the leaks in Iraq’s national water distribution system, especially amid the flying bullets. And we don’t know how B. Bee or anyone else would keep count of the new leaks caused by the bombs of the evil ones as balanced against Halliburton’s feverish efforts to patch the holes. The little Dutch boy had only one leak to worry about, while poor George Bush is fretting with half a million or so. 

The point is, when we started putting together the items below we found not just some small contradictions but some really gigantic ones. Like, for example, one assertion that half the country’s water is sprayed on lawns during the summer vs. a later statement that all household use of water, including the watering of lawns and gardens, makes up only 1% of the country’s use of water. 

With this disclaimer in mind, here are a bunch of facts about water. Let the reader beware.

Most communities lose a considerable portion of their piped water (up to 30%) in pipeline leaks, saying it is cheaper to waste than to repair or replace. It is estimated that there are as many as 500,000 leaks in Iraq’s national water distribution system and that 50% of the country’s water is lost because of these leaks.

Humans take in over 16,000 gallons of water during their lifetimes, with an average of 2.5 quarts per day. (On the average, people who live to be 100 consume a lot more water than people who die at 35. This proves that water consumption goes hand in hand with longevity.)

Toilets (while consuming nearly one quarter of our municipal water supply) use over 40% more water than needed.

The United States consumes water at twice the rate of other industrialized nations.

Many homes lose more water from leaky taps than they need for cooking and drinking.

The Great Lakes, straddling the Canada-U.S. boundary, contain 25% of the world’s fresh water in lakes (tying for “first place” with Lake Baykal, Russia).

Unsanitary water, which provides a breeding ground for parasites, amoebas and bacteria, damages the health of 1.2 billion people a year.

More than 1,000,000,000 (one billion) of the Earth’s people have to walk at least three hours to obtain drinking water.

During the summer about half of all treated water is sprayed onto lawns

Ten gallons of water is required to manufacture one gallon of gasoline.

The composition of seawater is almost identical to the composition of blood. The main difference is that where blood contains iron, seawater contains magnesium.

A chicken is about three-fourths water, and a pineapple is about four-fifths water.

1000 kilograms of water is required to grow 1 kilogram of potatoes.

Acid rain with a pH of 3.6 has 100 times the acidity of normal rain with a pH of 5.6.

Water used around the house for such things as drinking, cooking, bathing, toilet flushing, washing clothes and dishes, watering lawns and gardens, maintaining swimming pools, and washing cars accounts for only 1% of all the water used in the U.S. each year.

Of the total world’s freshwater supply, over two thirds is found underground.

Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people who suffer from water-borne diseases.

Water uses and consumption (in gallons):

Toilet flush
Shower (10 minute)
Tub bath
Hand washing
Brushing teeth
Outdoor watering
Automatic dish washing
Dish washing by hand
Washing machine
2 (with tap running)
1 (with tap running)

(Gazette comment: This must be a very old list. Does anyone really run a whole gallon of water while brushing his teeth?)

Each day humans must replace 0.6 gallons of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods we eat.

The United States has about 8% of the world’s renewable freshwater supply, compared with 18% for Brazil, 9% for China, and 8% for Canada.

Worldwide water withdrawals from water bodies have risen from 250 cubic meters per person (per year) in 1900 to over 700 cubic meters today.

Globally, approximately 34,000 deaths occur daily from diseases related to water, feces, and dirt. (This is equivalent to 100 jumbo jets crashing daily!)

In the developing countries, 80% of illnesses are water-related.

One liter of oil can contaminate up to two million liters of water.

The Great Lakes constitute one of the largest systems of freshwater reservoirs on earth, with 18% of the world’s fresh surface water.

Freshwater lakes, rivers and underground aquifers hold only 3.5% of the world’s water. By comparison, saltwater oceans and seas contain 95.1% of the world’s water supply.

Thirty percent of the earth’s fresh water exists as ice in the form of glaciers and ice caps.

One out of every three Canadians and one out of every seven U.S. residents depend on the Great Lakes for their water, using almost 37,000 gallons of water a second.

295,000 liters of water is required to produce 910 kilograms of paper. 86 300 liters of water is required to produce 910 kilograms of steel.

About 83% of our blood is water. It helps digest our food, take in oxygen, transport body wastes, and control body temperature.

Much less than 1% of the water produced at a large municipal water treatment plant is used for drinking purposes.

A five-minute shower with a standard showerhead uses 26 gallons of water, whereas a five-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead uses 9 gallons of water.


Our immediate source for many of the items above is the Alamo Corporation’s Website,
which in turn sites The Nalco Water Handbook and a couple of websites which no longer exist. 

Water in the news

If you think leaks are a problem, consider the opposite. Here’s a water story from the town of Moriarty, New Mexico that has a reverse leak in its drain water system.

Moriarty Confounded by Water Surge

An unexpected surge of water into Moriarty’s wastewater treatment plant has city staff and even the mayor searching for clues.

The mysterious water surge first appeared on May 28, Mayor Adan Encinias said during a June 13 meeting of the Moriarty City Council.

City staff noticed that the plant was receiving 120,000 gallons more sewage than usual that day, even though city wells were not pumping more fresh water than normal.

After some detective work, public works director Mike Tapia said a city employee found more than two dozen toilets running in Moriarty High School, Middle School and Elementary.

The toilets had apparently been running since May 26, Tapia said.

Then on June 4, about 100,000 gallons of water appeared in the city’s sewer system—but not from the schools.

It happened again on June 13—but again, not from the schools.

Tapia said that during the evening of June 13, the wastewater plant took in more than 300,000 gallons of water—more than the entire city uses during an average full day in the summer.

Moriarty usually produces about 300,000 gallons of wastewater daily, Tapia said.

On June 4 and 13, Tapia said, city wells did not pump more water than usual.

Encinias said he checked with hotels to see if they were booked during those weekends. He and Tapia also drove throughout the city, checking sewage flow at different collection points.

None of the collection points had more than a trickle of water, Encinias said. After checking several sewage lines, Encinias said he talked to police and area residents to see if dozens of semi-trucks had been dumping water into manholes.

The answer, he said, was no.

“I’m concerned because the water is looking very clear,” he said. “It means we have an outside source pumping into our sewers.”

Tapia said the excess water is overloading the town’s wastewater treatment plant as well.

“When it comes in, it doesn’t have anywhere to go, so it comes up around the buildings (at the plant),” he said.

The water could damage the buildings as well as cause a health hazard, said Tapia. “We’ve got to find out where this water is coming from,” he said.

Terry Parker, an engineer with Bohannon-Huston, said he and his colleagues are trying to solve the mystery of the unpredictable water.

“It could be a problem with the meters,” he told city councilors.

Parker said some meters could be reading water usage incorrectly or not at all.

Tapia said he and other city staff will check the city’s electricity bills to find out which, if any, wastewater lift stations have been running more than usual.

If they can track down the lift station that has been working overtime, Tapia said city staff may be able to isolate the area where the excess water is coming into the sewer system.

Encinias estimated that it would take twice the number of people who live in the city to produce the sewage surge.

“I don’t think the (current) population would do it,” he said. “There has to be a strange source going into this.”

And at last, to Buffalo, NY, where thieves, not leaks, are the biggest drain on the water system.

Buffalo residents who steal water face arrest and prison

Sprite Shower Filters make you sing better! 

If you steal money, you’re arrested.

If you steal gasoline, you’re arrested.

And now, if you steal water, you will be arrested.

City officials say the crackdown is needed because some people will do almost anything to get free water.

One East Ferry Street water thief dug a shallow trench and buried a garden hose that snaked from a neighbor’s home to his property. His water service had been shut off a short time earlier because he didn’t pay his bills.

A Breckenridge Street man—a plumber whose water service was turned off for nonpayment—was accused of threatening an elderly neighbor after she balked at his scheme to run a hose from her home to his property. He has since left the region.

And during a crackdown a few years ago, investigators found a tiny street off Fillmore Avenue where at least half of the dozen or so homes had illegal water hookups.

These are water pirates. And they drive up the cost for everyone else.

The city is now taking a tougher stand. If you steal water, you will be arrested.

In the past, the city has stopped short of criminally prosecuting offenders.

That’s about to change. For the first time, the Water Board has decided to get the Police Department involved. Water officials have contacted the Erie County district attorney’s office about the plan. Prosecutors advised them the best way to proceed would be for police officers to investigate cases and file reports involving water theft. Depending on how much water is involved and whether the person has stolen services before, he or she could face felony charges punishable by up to four years in prison.

Water theft is more common than some might think. In the past 12 months, city crews have discovered 1,037 city properties that had illegal water hookups in a city that has about 79,200 active accounts. Thousands of other water pirates have yet to be found, experts believe.

“We’ve heard there are people out there who have made a cottage industry out of restoring water service that has been turned off,” said James Campolong, project manager of American Water Services, which operates Buffalo’s system.

Water turn-on keys—long poles with attachments that activate underground valves—are relatively easy to procure. Water officials have heard that some hardware stores rent the devices. For every 1,000 customers who steal water instead of paying for it, the city loses between $300,000 and $400,000 in annual revenue.

It’s something that should infuriate all property owners, said the head of the Seneca-Babcock Block Club.

“If you’re stealing water, you’re driving up my rates and everyone else’s rates,” said Arthur J. Robinson Jr.

Water Board Vice Chairman Warren K. Galloway says the new offensive will bring in far more revenue than what it will cost to get police officers involved.

“The problem is out of hand, and we need to prosecute people for stealing water,” Galloway said. “They’re living off good-paying customers.”

Few people steal water because they don’t have the money to pay their bills, said Shirley Hunter, customer service manager at American Water Services. About 6,000 customers are currently on payment plans to whittle down water debts as they continue to receive service.

Most people who steal water simply don’t want to pay, she said.

“They’ve been able to get away with it in the past without being caught,” she said.

Some offenders have been diabolically creative.

There have been cases where people dug up curb boxes that red-flag the location of water valves, moving the boxes to different spots to trick turn-off crews.

Others have poured concrete into the openings after they illegally restored water service.

The new plan to criminally prosecuting offenders is just one action the city is taking to combat water theft. Other steps include:

• A new program sends crews into neighborhoods to check properties that are supposed to be vacant and no longer receive water bills. False reports involving occupied homes that are supposed to be vacant have been a growing problem.

“Our field staff visually checks these properties to see if there are any signs of people living there,” Campolong said.

• The Water Board has launched an awareness campaign and set up a hotline to encourage people to report possible water theft. The number is 847-1077.

• A property tagging blitz where crews place stickers on homes that have come on to the security division’s radar screens for whatever reasons. The stickers warn people that if they don’t call within 72 hours, water service will be turned off. Hunter said there have been instances in which people have seen their neighbors’ properties tagged and decided that they better not risk being caught in the dragnet.

“We’ve had some theft of services people come in just wanting to clear things up,” Hunter said. “We’ve put them on payment plans.”

• Some property owners who have illegally restored water service 10 or even 12 times have seen crews take a drastic step to prevent future theft. The city can dig up a property and turn off service at the water main. It’s an expensive task that typically costs about $800.

The charges are tagged on to the existing debt of the offending owner. Restoring service could cost the offender a couple thousand dollars, or more.

Campolong estimated that one third of all resources in the Water Division are used for collection-related tasks. And he said the ongoing efforts are paying dividends. Since 2003, the city has collected $14.5 million from customers who have had water service shut off.

“We’re doing everything we can legally do to get people to pay their bills,” he said. “I think a lot of people are beginning to realize that there are some new efforts that will make it a lot harder to get free water.”

Pure Water Occasional
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