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Newsletter- The Utility Pipeline

Rain Garden Photo Contest!
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Sense program is hosting a photo challenge seeking photo entries that showcase past landscape transformations or those that have recently been transformed with plants that need less water.  The EPA’s WaterSense Facebook page will feature a “Photo Challenge” tab where people can post their photos or vote for their favorites.  Participants can also email photos to or post them on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #watersavingyard. (Make sure the account is set to public, not private, before you post).

The top landscapes that incorporate both beauty and water efficiency will receive national WaterSense recognition!  Photo submission is from July 16, 2015 through August 27, 2015, and voting will continue through September 10, 2015.

In the Midwest, we are not facing the drought challenges of the West Coast.  We experience hot dry spells followed by sudden, heavy downpours which creates a unique opportunity for landscaping techniques.  Did you know you can create beautiful lawns, gardens, and hardscapes that will conserve and protect water as well as save you money?

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Any time rain water rushes down the street and into a storm drain instead of soaking down through the soil, trees and flowers miss out on its benefit.  Worse, as the rain runs off, it gathers exhaust residue, pesticides and other pollutants that then seep into the water system.

Healthy soil is the best water filtration system on Earth.  When rain water lands on asphalt or other water-resistant surfaces, we end up polluting existing water resources with toxic runoff that could be filtered through healthy soil or absorbent landscapes.  Instead of capturing clean rain water, we end up polluting the existing water supply.  Some of the ways we can remedy this situation are installing permeable pavement & driveways, using rain barrels, or creating a rain garden.

Permeable pavement & driveways help solve two problems – dirty stormwater that poisons streams and lakes, and the tidal wave of water that gushes through creeks and floods buildings.  The water runs through the permeable pavement cleaning it as it trickles into the soil, and it helps the dirt soak up the water recharging pockets of buried groundwater.

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Rain gardens are plantings that capture and take advantage of rainwater which in turn helps limit the runoff and takes the pressure off of storm water systems.  When you create a rain garden, you take a place that doesn’t drain properly and turn it into a pretty garden area that helps prevent run-off and flooding.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or involve major changes to your existing property.

First, start with your soil.  Use healthy soil which will allows the rain water to soak in which filters out toxins before it reaches our water supply.  Don’t use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers which cause unnecessary damage to the environment.  If you plan and maintain your landscape with water efficiency in mind, it will continue to remain attractive and healthy while requiring less maintenance and less water.

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Here are some landscaping tips:

  • Go native or choose plants that need less water.  Once they are established, they require little water beyond normal rainfall.
  • Group plants according to their water needs.  By grouping vegetation with similar watering needs, you reduce water use by allowing you to water according to zone’s needs.
  • Maintain healthy soils.  Healthy soil cycles nutrients, minimizes runoff, retains water and absorbs excess nutrients, sediments, and pollutants.
  • Turf areas receive the highest percentage of irrigation water in traditional landscaping.  Plant turf grass only where it has a practical function.
  • Water wisely.  Avoid watering during the heat of the day and know you plant’s water needs.  If you have irrigation, make regular adjustments to your system to ensure proper watering.
  • Use mulch.  Use mulch around shrubs, garden plants and trees to help reduce evaporation, stop weed growth, keep the soil cooler, and prevent erosion.
  • Maintain your garden.  Replace mulch around shrubs and plants at least once per year, weed and thatch as needed.

A Few Facts About Water You Probably Didn’t Know

On the planet Earth, there are about 1.5 billion cubic kilometers of water – that’s 1.5 billion trillion liters, or 800 trillion Olympic swimming pools.  If the Earth’s water was evenly spread over its surface, it would have a depth of 3,700 meters.  97% of the Earth’s water is salty, 2.1% is locked up in polar ice caps, and less than 1% is available as fresh water.

The human body is between 60% and 70% water – this changes at different times of your life.  A human fetus is around 95% water for the first few months in the womb, reducing to 77% water at birth.  In a 154 pound adult, there are 42 liters of water.  Two-thirds of that water is within your cells.  Each human drinks around 1000 liters of water a year.

Some other things to ponder:

  • A five minute shower uses 200 liters of water.
  • We use 8 liters of water to flush a toilet.
  • To produce the coffee beans for one cup of coffee, it takes 200 liters of water.
  • To produce 2.2 lbs of beef, it takes 15,000 liters of water.
  • It takes 100 liters of water to make 2 slices of bread.
  • In the process of making one pint of beer, it takes 150 liters of water.

Water is a precious commodity.  Without water, life cannot exist.  We all need to do our part to conserve and preserve this precious resource.


April 8, 2015

EPA Launches Safe Drinking Water Act Dashboard

WASHINGTON – The EPA announced the release of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) dashboard.  The SDWA dashboard is a website presenting data about violations and the compliance status of public water systems.  The website contains interactive charts and graphs providing information regarding public water systems’ compliance with federal drinking water regulations and enforcement actions.

Included in the dashboard is annual statistics and five-year trends for U.S. public drinking water systems in easy-to-read bar chart and pie graph formats.  All the data on the website can be downloaded, exported and printed.

For more information on the EPA dashboard, go to:!OpenDocument

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 In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply.  This Act authorized the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against naturally and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water.

Every day, millions of Americans receive high quality drinking water from their public water systems -which can be publicly or privately owned.  There are currently more than 170,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans.  The US EPA, states and water systems work together to make sure that these standards are met.

Originally, the SDWA focused primarily on treatment as the way to provide safe drinking water, but the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended in 1986 and 1996 to include actions which protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.  The amendments also specified operator training, funding for water system improvements, and public information as important components of providing safe drinking water.  These  methods ensure the quality of our drinking water by protecting it from source to tap.

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  •  Ebola cannot spread through the water supply
    • Ebola survives in water for only a few minutes because water does not provide the same environment as our bodily fluids.  Our bodily fluids have a higher salt concentration.  Once in water, the virus takes in the water in an attempt to equalize the osmotic pressure which causes the cells to swell and burst which in turn kills the virus.

  • Ebola is not a foodborne, waterborne, or airborne illness
    • Ebola is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads throughout the human population from human-to-human transmission.  You must have direct contact with infected bodily fluids (e.g., blood, vomit, feces) to contract the virus.

For more information regarding Ebola visit:

World Health Organization (WHO)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CNN Interview:

Tips to Reduce Water Usage

To help conserve water due to the emergency drought situation in Kansas:

  • Take 5 minute or less showers.
  • Make sure dishwasher is full before running.
  • Check for any possible leaks:    
    • A family of 4 should use around 12,000 gallons of water.  If the usage is higher, a leak may be possible.
    • Check your meter before and after a 2 hour period of no water use.  If the meter has changed, there might be a leak.
    • Check your pipe fittings under the kitchen sink for any water outside the pipe.
    • Check for "silent" toilet leaks by placing food coloring in the tank and wait to see if any color appears in the bowl.
    • Turn the water on in the shower and check for drips where the shower head meets the pipe stem.
    • Check the inground sprinkler system to make sure there is no damage due to frost or freezing.
    • Turn faucet off while brushing teeth.
    • Wash full loads of laundry. 

Grease - How it Affects the Sewer Pipes
Grease blockage in sewer pipe
Grease is "hydrophobic," meaning it floats on top of water and adheres to other material such as a sewer pipe.  Grease sticks to the insides of sewer pipes, in both private lines and public lines.  Over time, the grease can build up and block large portions of the sewer line.  Large amounts of oil and grease in waste water can cause sewer lift station failures, wastewater treatment plant problems and environmental concerns.  As grease continues to build, large masses of grease break off and create a blockage downstream.  Grease is one waste that the sewer system cannot handle.  Grease has to be kept out of the system.

Why Grease is a Problem
Grease, a byproduct of cooking comes from meat fats, lard, oil, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, baking goods, sauces and dairy products.  When washed down the sink, grease sticks to the insides of sewer pipes on your property and public property.  Overtime, grease will block the entire pipe.  Home garbage disposals do NOT keep grease out of the plumbing system.  Garbage disposals only shred solid material into smaller pieces and do not prevent grease from doing down the drain.  Commercial additives, including detergents, claiming to dissolve grease may pass grease down the line and cause problems in other areas.  The result can be:

  • Raw seweage overflowing in your home, your neighbor's home, or business;
  • An expensive and unpleasant cleanup that often must be paid for by you, the home or business owner;
  • Raw sewage overflowing into parks, yards and streets;
  • Potential contact with disease causing organisms;
  • An increase in operation and maintenance costs for local sewer departments, which causes higher sewer bills for customer;
  • Rancid odors

Do's and Do Not's for Grease Handling:


  • DO - place cooled cooking oil, poultry and meat fats in sealed non-recyclable conatiners and discard with regular garbage;
  • DO - use paper towels to wipe residual grease or oil off of dishes, pots and pans prior to washing them;
  • DO - use a grease can.  Opened soup or vegetable cans work well for storage purposes.  Pour grease and oil into a can and store in freezer until the can is full.  Discard in the trash when the can is full.


  • DO NOT - use a garbage disposal or food grinder.  Grinding food before rinsing down the drain does not remove food, oil and grease.  It just makes the pieces smaller.  Even non-greasy food scraps can plug your home's sewer lines.  Do not put food of any kind down the drain.
  • DO NOT - pour cooking oil, pan drippings, bacon grease, salad dressings or sauces down the sink or toilet or into street gutters or storm drains.
  • DO NOT - use cloth towels or rags to scrape plates or clean greasy or oily dishware.  When the rags are washed, the grease will end up in the sewer.
  • DO NOT - run water over dishes, pans, fryers and griddles to wash oil and grease down the drain.
  • DO NOT - dump cooking oil, poultry fat and grease into the kitchen sink or the toilet.
  • DO NOT - use hot water and soap to wash grease down the drain.  The grease will cool and harden in your pipes or in the sewer down the line.
  • DO NOT - dump used fryer oil or motor oil into the street or house drains.  When poured down house or storm drains, oil may travel to your local stream, bay or harbor where it can harm underwater vegetation and aquatic life.

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