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Everything About Water



If you’re a Redhill Forest water customer (or plan to be someday), this article will explain how our water is managed, used, and paid for. We’ll cover:


  • Consumption and Conservation

  • Water Use in Cold Weather

  • Pressure in Your Home

  • Turning Your Water Off Safely

  • Rates

  • Meters


Consumption and Conservation

Today, many homeowners have become much more savvy about energy-efficient lighting and heat and air-conditioning. Because water has historically been so cheap (that’s changing), water efficiency hasn’t seen the same conservation intensity.


The US Geological Survey estimates the average daily water consumption per person is 82 gallons. This depends a lot on the habits of the individuals in your home. For example, a teenage daughter may luxuriously take longer showers, whereas older adults are quickly in and out. Just a few minutes less every day can add up to a big difference over the course of a month or a year. 

The chart below shows how water is consumed in an average household.



Typical Water Usage


(3-4) gallons flushing the toilet (older models)

(1-2) gallons flushing the toilet (new models)

(10-20) gallons shower

(15- 30) gallons bath

(3-15) gallons dishwasher

(9-27) gallons dish washing by hand

(1) gallon brushing teeth (tap running)

(1) gallon washing hands (tap running)

(7-22) gallons per 1 load of laundry


Energy Star appliances and water sense fixtures can save 20% to 60% of water in your home. Most families in Redhill Forest will use about 60 gallons per person per day, which calculates to 3,600 gallons for a family of two or 7,200 gallons for a family of four every month. Some will use more and some less. Energy Star appliances and water sense/efficient fixtures can help to achieve an average savings of 50 to 60 gallons per day.  That can be over 1,500 gallons a month!


Most homeowners in Redhill Forest are conservative regarding water usage. Very little water is used outside; irrigation for watering lawns would be a big waste of water in RHF and is strictly limited by regulations. Some owners have small flower beds or hanging baskets that need water almost daily, and others occasionally wash their vehicles or replenish water in their hot tubs. Some have bird baths/waterers that need water regularly. Some conservation-minded owners use rain barrel harvesting systems for outside watering of plants.


We also see a 30%-50% higher level of consumption with homes used for short-term rentals. Renters don’t seem concerned about conservation as they’re not paying the water bill.



Big water wasters. The chart and list above show that toilet use is at the top. The biggest water waster in the home is often a toilet that runs water continuously, not shutting off after flushing, which can run about 1.9 gallons or more per minute and can amount to 82,000 gallons in a month, depending on water pressure in your home. A toilet running constantly can be heard, but not always. Sometimes, a toilet leaks slowly because the flapper or valve doesn’t completely seal off. Slow, constant leaks add up over a month's time. Other water wasters might include dripping faucets, pressure relief valves on household pressure tanks, and water heaters. These are often not noticeable when installed in a crawl space.


An expensive case history of water waste. One Redhill forest owner recently found a toilet malfunctioning in their part-time home. They hadn’t been there in over a month and received a $7,890.00 water bill. Shocked, they quickly went to the property and found a toilet running continuously. They shut the toilet off, but not before it had leaked 82,800 gallons of water. The owner wisely decided to replace that toilet and the tank flappers and floats of their other ones. As an extra precaution, they planned to turn off the toilets anytime they were away from the house for more than a day. They also looked into installing a Flo Smart Water Monitor but decided to wait until they get reliable Internet service in the home. The owner was both responsive and responsible, and in so doing, the water committee was supportive of a billing adjustment. 


Water use in cold weather

There were some early Redhill winters when the mains froze, and water had to be trucked in. When the water system was rebuilt in 2010, new water mains were buried below the freeze line. However, if you have a home built before then, the water line from the main to the house may be too shallow.


The winter of 2023 was a very cold one, and several homes had frozen water lines. It can be difficult to unfreeze a line (the owner's responsibility). One solution is to wait until the ground warms up. The other is running an electric current through the pipe to heat it up. This solution is tricky and won’t work for plastic water lines, though some plastic water line pipes have a wire embedded in them for electric thawing.


Another component vulnerable to freezing is the water meter itself. Newer homes have water meters installed in exterior meter pits connected below the freeze lines. Some older homes have the meters inside their basement or crawl space and, if left unheated, can freeze.


Outside hose bibs can also be a failure point, and older faucets should be re-plumbed with freeze-proof ones.


And while wastewater isn’t considered part of the Redhill system, for some older homes, there have been reports of the pipe to the septic system freezing. When that happens, it causes all the drains to back up and probably requires a plumber to get the frozen section thawed.


Part-time homes with older freeze-prone plumbing may be subject to pipes bursting when they thaw. Not only can that damage the home, but unattended water consumption can be very expensive. Some homeowner insurance policies cover that, but others don’t. However, the best insurance is to have the water shut off to the home for extended absences and the hot water heater shut off and drained, too.


Turning your water off safely

Part-time residents and owners on vacation often ask, should I shut off the water to my house, and is it safe to leave the water heater on while I'm away? This should only be done by taking proper safety precautions. If the water valve is turned off in the home, you create a closed system, and there is no place for the hot water to expand into. Do not turn off the water and leave the water heater on. The pressure relief valve on the hot water heater must work properly to make it safe. If the valve opens under pressure as designed, it will exhaust water. If a backflow device is installed in your waterline, a properly working expansion tank may be needed to make it safe. It’s always best to consult someone who understands what could happen when you create a closed system by shutting off the water.


All homes in Redhill Forest are required to have a check valve that will not allow water to flow from their home back into the community water system. Turning your hot water heater off when you shut your water off is the safest. You should be able to safely turn off all toilets and other devices/appliances where you can easily get to the valves. Again, consult a plumber or someone who understands your home’s situation.


Pressure in your home

The Redhill Forest water system is gravity-fed. Treated water is pumped to two tanks on the ridge and then fed to the water mains. The pressure in your home depends on where your house is located. Homes on the top of the ridge (Middle Fork Vista, Ridge Road) probably have jet pumps. A jet pump will pull water up from the main to provide reasonable pressure. Homes below the ridge (Redhill Road, Bonell) generally have much higher pressure.


Water pressure between 30-80 psi is standard. Check to see if your house has a PRV (pressure-reducing valve) near where your water feed comes in. A good setting is 60 psi, and don’t go over 70 psi.  High pressure can cause pipe and fixture failures, leading to high repair and consumption costs.


Rates

Water is more expensive in Redhill Forest compared to most city water systems. The higher cost reflects the investment in building a dependable, high-quality water system that meets state health requirements. One upside is that owners do not have to absorb the high cost of drilling a well, treating the water, and maintaining pump equipment.


Once any property is connected to the water system, the owner pays a monthly base charge whether or not they use water. This also applies to lots with RV pads. Currently, the base charge is $70 per month. This base charge includes the use of up to 3,000 gallons a month. Over that, the rates go up to incentivize conservation. The next tier, between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons, is $.02; over 5,000 gallons, it jumps to $.10 per gallon.


Redhill Forest is a public water supply required to use quality meters manufactured to meet the American Water Works Association Specifications of plus or minus 1 1/2%. Positive displacement meters are used in RHF and may under-register or stop registering but will not over-register. Sometimes, an owner experiences a high water bill and does not believe they used that much water. In that case, the water operator can download detailed information that indicates when and how much water went through the meter.


Meters

The use of water meters provides individual consumption information and tells the water operator and the water committee a lot about consumption patterns and leaks.


The water operator reads meters during the last week of each month for billing to go out on the first of the following month. Water customers sometimes ask if there is any way they can get usage information or have alarms that would notify them if there is a problem or remotely shut off the water.


Several products on the market may furnish this information for customers with full-time Internet service and in-home wifi. These products include Flow Smart Water Monitor, Bluebot Water Monitor, and Streamlabs Water Monitor. They vary in price, capability, and accuracy. None of these devices meet the accuracy requirements that Redhill Forest meters are required to meet, but they will give you a reasonable sense of consumption and alert you to problems. If you have access to your water meter inside your home, you can track your usage as often as you would like by reading your meter and calculating usage.


Looking to the future, the technology exists for water meters to connect to a network of antennas and provide accurate, real-time usage readings for both the owner and our water operator. It is an expensive upgrade, and the Water Committee will be exploring the cost of the equipment to gain these capabilities.



Many thanks to Jerry Shands and the Redhill Forest Water Committee for providing a wide range of information for this article.

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4 Comments


Thanks Don for the useful information. Barbara and I own three parcels in Redhill, two of them being new build potentials, which will move forward depending upon a variety of factors. We'd love to get together with you soon to discuss your experiences, and get advice. I was a landlord for 35 years, and occasionally experienced the costly toilet running issues you mention, as some tenants just didn't report observable water noises or leaks. So we ended up just having to do weekly inspections of 75 units to monitor various issues, including water wasters. The real cost in Cincinnati was that the sewer bills were determined from the water usage meters, sewer charges being the real cost, not so…

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Meghan Mariner
Meghan Mariner
Dec 30, 2023

Don, Thank you for these articles! They have been extremely helpful!

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I automated my Redhill Forest home long ago to give me peace of mind when absent. Two of the things I automated right off the bat were the water mains (inside the house) and the water heater. There are many more options available today than a decade ago, but I invested in home automation products that primarily rely on the low-power z-wave protocol so I can go months on battery-powered devices (locks, sensors, etc.) without changing batteries, unlike high-powered WiFi devices. That said, most of my Z-wave devices also plug in. A Z-wave gateway or hub is needed, but there are many on the market these days, like Ezlo, Vera, SmartThings, etc., and most things can be integrated with Amazon…


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Thanks Ralph for the helpful info. We will consider this in any new builds here. Best, Bill and Barbara

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