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Charlottesville earns EPA award yet again

Charlottesville is no stranger to the annual awards from the Environmental Protection Agency, as it accepted its fifth consecutive Sustained Excellence Award from the agency earlier this month.

The award is reserved for partners who earned the Partner of the Year award three times in a row, as Charlottesville did in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The city was recognized for the award alongside 33 winners from utilities, manufacturers, retailers, builders, and other organizational WaterSense partners. WaterSense, a program sponsored by the EPA, works to raise awareness about ways to save water and water-efficiency products.

The agency specifically recognized the city for its virtual Home Scavenger Hunt initiative during its annual Fix A Leak Week in March 2021.

“We had a little worksheet that had people go and get to know their water fixtures,” said Jill Greiner, Charlottesville Water Efficiency Program coordinator. “The 2021 one basically had people check their toilets and just identifying if they had any water leaks, which was cool because we did get a couple of people responding that they found and actually fixed the leak. That was really exciting because we know that the campaign is helping make sure people have awareness of that.”

The scavenger hunt encouraged city residents to assess the status of water fixtures in each room. The program collected all of the lists that were delivered to City Hall to determine participants eligible for a prize raffle and the water-saving data that propelled the entire week.

Of the 20 city participants who completed the scavenger hunt last year, six households reported that they discovered leaks at home. The program estimated that repairing those leaks will save the community about 300 gallons of water per day and 60,000 gallons of water per year.

All participants who entered any of the Fix A Leak events, which also included a river scavenger hunt and a family 5K run, also were eligible to win a prize. Winners received $50 gift cards to Charlottesville-based businesses Ragged Mountain Running Shop and Fifth Season Gardening Company.

The Charlottesville Water Efficiency Program brought the community together for the good of its shared water supply. The events also promoted several free and discounted resources to help city residents conserve water.

Located at City Hall, the Water Efficiency Program offers free water conservation kits for city residents. The kits come with WaterSense-certified chrome low-flow shower heads, dye tablets to detect toilet leaks, universal toilet flappers, faucet aerators, a plumbing handbook and more, along with easy-install instructions.

The kit items can help households use 20% less water compared to standard water fixtures, Greiner says.

The program also promotes rebate opportunities from Charlottesville Water and the Albemarle County Service Authority. Customers of both suppliers are eligible for a $100 rebate toward a WaterSense-certified toilet replacement. Customers can also earn a $30 rebate for purchasing a legitimate rain barrel.

Renters can also become eligible for the rebates with the permission of their landlord or property owner, Greiner says.

“We have a pretty great water system,” Greiner said. “We do get surface water for water-drinking water, we’ve got two reservoirs that we collect from in the city. The Ragged Mountain reservoir, which is very large, has the majority of our water service supply available. We also have the Rivanna River and most of our drinking water is coming from there.”

Larger drinking water plants are managed by Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, which supplies drinking water for both the city and county.

“No matter where you are, you’re getting your water from a river in our area,” Greiner said. “If we’re only taking what we need, the Rivanna River is cleaner and flowing better and the fish appreciate it. So it all connects, and then the community downstream from us can get benefit from that as well.”

Practicing better conservation behaviors will also help the city prevent another serious drought like the one in 2017, when the city government required all leaks be repaired within three days of discovery.

The program even includes Charlottesville youth in the conservation efforts with its “Imagine a Day Without Water” annual art contest. This year, students in kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to submit original art that aligns with the theme, “Value of Water.”

With prizes for everyone, students and teachers can both win $200 gift cards. The program will select five student winners and open voting up to the community for a sixth fan-favorite winner. Teachers can win for most classroom submissions and a random winner will be picked from a city or county Public School.

Participants can submit Imagine a Day Without Water entries through Oct. 31 and fan favorite voting will begin on Nov. 14.

As an EPA WaterSense partner for more than 14 years, the city has helped the national and voluntary water conservation effort save more than 6.4 trillion gallons of water, according to the WaterSense website.


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