Seasonal Water & Sewer Tips

Seasonal Water & Sewer Tips: Autumn

Autumn Water & Sewer Tips

Prevent Flooding - Homeowners can help themselves and avoid messy problems by remembering to take some simple steps to help prevent flooding.

  • Keep curb, gutter, and storm drains free of leaves, trash, and debris. This will allow water to drain properly, minimizing ponding and localized flooding.
  • Make sure roof drains, foundation drains and sump pumps are connected to the storm sewer system and not the sanitary sewer system. When improperly connected, these devices may cause the sanitary sewer system to surcharge and back up through floor drains and other plumbing fixtures. If you are not sure if your drains are connected properly, call the Public Works office at (630) 377-4405. We will be glad to assist homeowners and business owners in evaluating their drainage systems.
  • Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) identify areas of high risk and are available at the St. Charles Public Library, (630) 584-0076, or the St. Charles Engineering Office, (630) 377-4486. Check the maps to see if your home is at high risk for flooding and if flood insurance might be warranted.

Winterize Your Water - There are several things that homeowners can do during the fall months to protect their homes from winter water damage. Before the cold weather hits, be sure to:

  • Open outside water faucets and close the line inside the home.
  • Locate and mark the main water valve for your home and make sure the adults in your house know where it is located. Water damage can be minimized if all adults know where to turn off the water in the event of an emergency.
  • Insulate any pipes that are near outside walls, under the home (in crawl spaces) or in the attic.
  • If you have had problems with lines freezing in the past, inspect the lines before the winter hits. In addition to insulating the pipes, seal any gaps in the walls with caulk or other means. Repair broken windows and doors to the outside so they close tightly. Check with your local hardware store for other effective ways of insulating and sealing gaps.
  • If vents will not close, cover them from the inside with insulation, cardboard, plastic, or newspaper.
  • Shut off and drain outdoor sprinkler systems.
  • Drain your swimming pool properly. Check our Guidelines for Draining Swimming Pools for how to drain your pool while protecting our watershed.

Plan Before You Plant - Fall is a prime time for planting trees and shrubs because watering requirements are lower. Consider the following as you plan for fall landscaping:

  • Consider the plant's needs for moisture, sunlight, etc. in advance. Some trees require a large amount of water, making them perfect for a swampy area but a poor choice for dryer ground.
  • Improve the soil structure. Work organic material such as peat moss or compost into the soil to help retain water and assist in plant growth. Aerating your yard once a year also will help it retain water.
  • Cut down on grass. Grass requires up to four times as much water as other plants. Cut back on the amount of grass in your yard by planting shrubs or ground cover or putting in rock gardens.
  • Water efficiently. Use a sprinkler or soaker hose with a low application rate (about one-third inch per hour) and check for even coverage. Established grass only needs an inch of water each week.
  • Make the most of mulches. Three to four inches of mulch on top of the soil, especially before fall rains, will reduce water needs, moderate soil temperature and inhibit weed growth.
  • Choose climate friendly plants. Many native plants can survive on rainwater alone, and they're more disease and insect resistant.
  • Care for what you plant. Weed and prune regularly to ensure water is going where it's needed.

Seasonal Water & Sewer Tips: Spring

Spring Water & Sewer Tips

  • Help Our Watershed - The City's storm sewer collection system consists of over 163 miles of piping and 8,500 structures and inlets. Water and materials that enter the storm sewer are released directly into a local stream, river or pond. Cleaning and maintaining this system is vital to the ecological health of these waterways. Everyone can help by ensuring that only storm water runs through our storm sewer system. Never put chemicals or other materials into a storm drain. Follow the manufacturer's directions carefully for lawn care fertilizers and insecticides. Excess chemicals can wash into the storm sewer, which can lead to algae and other problems for fish and wildlife.
  • Look for Spring Leaks - Excess moisture in the basement can cause structural damage and even buckling in wood floors on the next level up. Look extra closely at any cracks for signs of leakage. Call a qualified professional to come make any necessary repairs. Inspect water supply lines and valves to sinks and toilets for any leaks. Repairing as soon as possible saves a lot of water costs over time and helps prevent damage to wood and floor coverings. If leaks are discovered, call a qualified professional to come repair the problems as soon as possible. When feasible, temporarily close valves that allow water to where the leak is until the necessary repairs are made.
  • Check Pipes and Drains - Leaking pipes and drains can cause severe damage to your home. Contact a qualified professional to repair the problem. Some drains and pipes can be covered with duct tape to temporarily prevent or slow further leaking until the necessary repairs are made. However, this should NEVER be considered as a permanent fix for ANY leaks.
  • Conserve Water Outdoors -Lawns really only need a small amount of water to survive, although they need a little bit more to stay green. Watch out for the water running off the grass and down the street or driveway. In the summer, 50% to 70% of the water demand is for outdoor use. If a garden hose is accidentally left on overnight, it may use twice as much water as the average family uses in a month! Also, don't water when it's windy, and eliminate weeds that compete with grass and other plants for water. Mulches will also help plants, trees and shrubs to retain moisture. Click here for tips on mulching.
  • Wash Cars Responsibly - When washing your car, use a hose nozzle that shuts off between rinses rather than letting the water run.

Seasonal Water & Sewer Tips: Summer

Summer

Water Conservation Tips

Water usage increases dramatically during summer’s dry weather when lawn-sprinkling demand occurs. To ensure that outdoor watering is effective and efficient, lawn sprinkling is regulated by City Code, Section 13.16.205. Other things you can do to conserve water and save money are:

  • Verify your home is free of leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there may be a leak.
  • Have all leaks repaired as soon as possible. A faucet dripping at the rate of one drop per second will waste 2,700 gallons per year.
  • When washing your car, use a hose with a shut-off nozzle. If possible, wash your car on the grass instead of the driveway.
  • Consider installing an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so you don’t have to let the water run while it heats up.
  • Store drinking water in the refrigerator. Don’t run the tap run while you are waiting for cool water to flow.
  • Do only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Use an automatic sprinkler system with a timer.
  • Use ground covers and mulches around plants.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket.
  • Take short showers
  • Brush your teeth and shave with the tap off.
  • Cover swimming pools when not in use.
  • Don’t let water run while washing dishes—fill the sink instead.
  • Leave grass tall (2”-4”), as taller grass helps retain moisture in the soil.
  • Look for landscaping plants that don’t need much water.

For more tips, visit the American Water Works Association web site or the Water—Use it Wisely web site.

Seasonal Water & Sewer Tips: Winter

Winter Water & Sewer Tips

Winter brings with it extreme cold temperatures and with low temperatures come frozen pipes.

Each winter the St. Charles Water Division answers dozens of calls for frozen pipes. These calls range from simply no water, to commercial fire services that have burst and are leaking upwards of 2000 gallons per minute. Although it does happen rarely, virtually none of these calls are due to the City's pipes being frozen.

That being said, here are some simple steps you can take to avoid this happening on your premises.

  • If you know that your water service is susceptible to freezing, let the cold water run in your home or business during times of no usage. A very small stream of water will prevent freezing.
  • Disconnect all hoses from outside hose bibs. Even with the water turned off, hoses and fixtures will freeze. Ice can then break the pipe not just outside, but on the inside of a building also. The leak may not be discovered until it thaws and may cause extensive damage.
  • If you have an underground, outdoor sprinkler system, it must be prepared for winter to prevent damage.
  • Businesses with exterior entry utility rooms should check the heating system periodically and insure that All exterior doors are secure.
  • If your home has the water meter, or piping close to an exterior basement wall and is enclosed, such as a cabinet or closet, be sure to leave the doors open during cold weather. It can get below freezing inside a cabinet that is against concrete. Homes with shallow basements, such as tri-levels or raised ranches are especially vulnerable because the frost in the ground can penetrate to the full depth of the basement.
  • If you are planning to leave the area for an extended period of time and your home will not be checked by someone or otherwise occupied, you may want to turn the water off at your meter or call the City Meter Office at 630-377-4404 and schedule having your water turned off at the curb stop while you are gone.
  • To avoid frozen water pipes, allow heated air to circulate around pipes and meters. Latch basement windows and vents to prevent drafts on pipes. When remodeling, do not locate water pipes against exterior concrete walls. If pipes have frozen in the past, insulate problem areas. If you have any questions, please contact the Meter Office at 630-377-4404.
  • Finally, if a building that has water service will be vacant and without heat, you should have the water turned off at the curb stop and have the meter removed. Call the City Meter Office at 762-6904 to schedule this service. Interior plumbing must then be winterized.