If you heard someone say that “our infrastructure is falling apart,” you would probably think of potholes in the road or communities in need of a facelift. But that is just the infrastructure you can easily see every day. There is another universe of infrastructure under our feet that in many places can be much older than the roads we drive on.
Underground, out of sight and out of mind, is a massive network of water systems that work 24/7/365 to bring clean, safe drinking water to us and take away water after it has been used to be treated. According to National Geographic, the U.S. has 1.2 million miles of water mains—that’s 26 miles of water mains for every mile of interstate highway. Many of those pipes were built in the 1800s or early 1900s, and many of those systems were built for cities of a century ago, not modern metropolises.
In Hampton Roads, there are three unseen public water systems that work independently of one another to manage the flow of water in Hampton Roads. The drinking water system utilizes more than 6,500 miles of pipes to deliver safe drinking water to homes and businesses across the region. Then the wastewater system steps in to carry dirty water away when we send it down the drain. It takes more than 5,800 miles of pipes to carry our dirty water to treatment plants to be sanitized before it rejoins our local waterways. Last but certainly not least in a coastal community is the stormwater system. The stormwater system collects all the water that falls on a rainy day and triesto keep it from flooding streets, neighborhoods and businesses. This water is carried out to a nearby stream or river without any processing to remove pollutants.
If these systems failed us one day, Hampton Roads would wake up to a very unpleasant morning. Imagine a day without water. You couldn’t brush your teeth, flush the toilet or take a shower. You couldn’t give your dog a bowl of water or make your coffee (#tragic). You couldn’t leave your home because of a flooded street. And that is just residential use. Commercial use is a huge component of water consumption as well. Everything from breweries and restaurants to manufacturing plants need water too. Water keeps our economy flowing.
askHRgreen.org knows that water is essential, and that’s why we are part of a nationwide educational effort called “Imagine a Day Without Water” during October 6-8. Dozens of water agencies, mayors, engineers, contractors, business leaders, community members, schools and more are joining the effort, because even though water is absolutely essential to everything we do, it too often is forgotten. Again: out of sight, out of mind.
But it needs to be on all of our minds because our system here in Hampton Roads is probably older than you realize. And while our local utility departments work hard to bring safe and reliable water to customers, the region should know that just because the infrastructure is invisible to us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Hampton Roads may be surrounded by water, it falls from the sky and flows through our rivers, but it is far from free. Processing it, treating it, bringing it to and from your house is a costly process. No matter how much or little water we use, the price tag for these processes stays the same or may go up to finance repairs to our aging systems. Yet the average residential water bill in Hampton Roads is still less than other household bills like cable or cellphones. When you think of everything that water provides, public water systems are a great value.
The good news is, we can be ahead of the curve. Deferred maintenance, that is waiting until a water main breaks or a system breaks down to make repairs—is the most expensive repairs possible. But if we continually maintain the system, if we upgrade our pipes, if we implement smarter technology that spot weaknesses in the system before they turn into breaks, then we can save money in the long run. And if we keep doing a good job, Hampton Roads will never have to imagine a day without water.
We don’t need to tell you that there are some powerful storm systems moving their way into Hampton Roads over the next several days. It seems like a million years since we had a clear, fall day and all that rain is set to continue through early next week. If Hurricane Joaquin decides to make landfall in northeast North Carolina, Hampton Roads will be set up to receive the strongest winds, highest storm surges and biggest rainfall totals from this predicted Category 2 storm. That’s stronger than the legendary Hurricane Isabel! Your city or county Stormwater Management teams are already hard at work clearing ditches and storm drains in an effort to reduce flooding. Please do your part and take action now to secure your home and help prevent street flooding in your neighborhood. Flood waters and storm damage know no property lines – help your neighbors prepare as well.
Clear Gutters and Ditches – Clear away vegetation, litter, tree branches and yard debris from any ditch, channel, storm drain, etc. on your property. This will help the flood waters flow freely into the stormwater system.
Secure Loose Items – Look around your yard for any item that may fly or float away and move it to a secure location. Loose items that float off into flood waters will worsen flooding by clogging drainage systems and flooding your street or yard. In the event that we receive high winds from Joaquin, loose items also pose a risk as dangerous projectiles that can endanger people and property.
Shelter Your Waste/Recycling Containers – Secure your trash/recycling containers indoors (i.e. garage, shed, etc.) to prevent trash from entering the stormwater system. If you are unable to secure the containers inside, attempt to weight the bottom of the receptacle and secure the top with a bungee or duct tape.
Prepare for Rising Flood Waters – If you live in a low-lying area, it’s not too early to think about moving important belongings off the ground in flood prone areas of your home or garage. In addition to your personal belongs, move hazardous household chemicals off the ground to prevent them from spilling into flood waters. Examples include motor oil, gasoline and lawn chemicals typically stored in your garage or shed.
Tune Into Local Emergency Communications – Your city or county will be providing a lot of information regarding city services during the storm. For important updates and news regarding closures, suspension of municipal services, shelter locations or evacuation requirements, please check in with your locality often. To find emergency information where you live, visit Ready Hampton Roads.
Check Your Emergency Supplies – Make sure you have the following items on hand in the event of prolonged outages of utility services: batteries, bottled water, flashlights/lanterns, easy to prepare meals, ice, activities for the kids, food for the “furry” kids and any medical care items you or your family may require. A battery operated radio is also essential for latest emergency information and updates during the storm.
You may also consider mentioning these tasks to your neighbors or better yet offer to help them prepare their homes and yards. Debris knows no property lines. Stay safe Hampton Roads!
The 2015 Remodeling/Realtor Cost vs. Value Survey reports that typical replacement window projects cost homeowners between $11,198 and $17,422. When reselling their homes, the study says the owners can expect to recover 72 to 79 percent of their investment in replacement windows.
If owners upgrade to replacement windows rated by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) under the EPA Energy Star program and stay in their homes after the job is done, they’re likely to enjoy additional payback in the form of lower energy bills over the years. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates annual energy-cost savings of $71 to $501 when rated windows are installed. Rated windows bear a label that looks like this:
NFRC rates windows in a number of areas—two have the most bearing on their energy performance:
U-factor: A fraction that expresses a window’s overall insulating performance based on its frame material and glazing
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): A fraction that expresses the amount of solar radiation a window admits through the glass
Generally speaking, the lower the U-factor, the better for any window in any climate. But Energy Star standards take into account the relationship between a window’s U-factor and SHGC in evaluating the potential benefits of particular windows in different climates. To state it simply, in cold climates windows with a low U-factor and a high SHGC (which maximizes passive heat gain) are most likely to promote energy savings during winter months. In warmer climates, windows with a higher U-factor will serve well as long as the SHGC is low. The key question in parsing the ratings is: How do you spend the bulk of your energy dollars—on heating or cooling?
The analysis can be taken even further by refining window selection not only by climate but also by orientation of windows with respect to the sun on different sides of a house. Energy Star has the following recommendations:
Of course, annual energy costs for a given home in a given year fluctuate with rates and weather. While the actual savings from investments in replacement windows are difficult to project with great accuracy, you’ll get the best bang from your energy buck by following the DOE recommendations as closely as possible.
Michael Chotiner is a construction industry veteran who writes on window installation and other homeowner topics for The Home Depot. Michael has been a general contractor for many years, and is also a master cabinet maker.
….Ric Bagtas! Ric and three friends will enjoy 18 holes of golf at Greenbrier Country Club on October 12th for the 2nd Annual Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament. This prize pack includes cart rental, gift bag, adult beverages, lunch from Chick-fil-A and an awards dinner provided by Outback Steakhouse.
Not golfing with Ric? Don’t worry, there’s still time for you and your friends to get a team together. But we’re just a month away from this unique event so don’t delay, register today!
Learn a little more about this great event…
askHRgreen.org is pleased to partner with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) and Keep Virginia Beautiful in the 2nd Annual Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament on October 12th. Last year’s tournament raised over $10,000, half of which stayed right here in Hampton Roads to provide funding for recycling and litter reduction programs in the 17 cities and counties that make up Hampton Roads. The programs in the region that this initiative supports demonstrate the ultimate in cooperation, collaboration and effective management of limited resources that benefit the region as a whole. This group is an incubator for innovation in stewardship and enhancing the natural beauty of our region. With the generous support of our sponsors, this year’s Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament will prove to be another positive venue to promote stewardship in the region. If you are interested in sponsorships, donations or golfing, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 26th is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day!
Proper disposal of medication is essential to ensuring clean waterways and safe, drug-free communities. As part of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on September26th, law enforcement agencies across Hampton Roads will accept all prescription and over-the-counter medications from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. Find the collection site nearest you by entering your zip code into the National Take Back Initiative Collection Site locator. The program is sponsored by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.
If you can’t make it out to one of the prescription drug collection sites on September 26th, please remember that medications should never be flushed down the sink or toilet. Wastewater treatment is designed to treat the water that goes down toilets and sinks and make it safe to return to the environment. But a treatment plant cannot remove the active chemicals from medications once they’ve dissolved into the wastewater. When medication is poured down the sink or flushed down the toilet, they enter our waterways and have lasting impacts on the marine environment – especially that yummy seafood we all love to enjoy.
For more information on disposing of medications safely, please visit our medication disposal page for information on how to properly dispose of your expired, unused, or unwanted medication.