FAQ: About Your Water

Those markings note the location of buried utility lines.  When someone plans to dig or excavate an area, they are required by law to contact Pennsylvania One Call (by dialing 8-1-1 or 1-800-242-1776) first so that utilities can mark the location of their lines before they start to dig.

Each color represents a different utility as follows:

Red = electric power lines, cables conduit and lighting cables
Yellow = gas, oil, steam, petroleum or gaseous materials
Orange = communication, alarm or signal lines, cables or conduit
Blue = potable water
Purple = reclaimed water, irrigation or slurry lines
Green = sewers and drain lines

It is important that these marks remain visible and unaltered until all excavation in the area has been completed.  Removing, moving or otherwise tampering with marks for underground utility lines can cause interruption of service to you and your neighbors and may result in costly repairs that could increase your monthly utility bills. It can also result in injury or even death to those in the immediate vicinity.

Tampering with these underground facility marks, even those on private property, is a violation of the Pennsylvania Utility Line Protection Act 287, as amended.  Conviction can result in a fine of up to $50,000, or imprisonment of up to 90 days, or both, not to speak of any civil liabilities in the matter.  If you witness or suspect that someone has tampered with underground facility marks, please immediately notify Pennsylvania One Call by dialing 8-1-1 or 1-800-242-1776.

Simple steps can be followed to help prevent frozen pipes and ensure that further damage does not occur. Frozen water in pipes can cause water pressure buildup between the ice blockage and the closed faucet at the end of a pipe, which leads to pipes bursting at their weakest point.

To keep water in pipes from freezing:

  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the heat transfer.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.
  • Remove all hoses from outside faucets and shut them off from the inside. Leave the fixtures open to drain.
  • Secure and drain all underground lawn sprinkler systems.
  • It is very important to maintain minimum temperatures in unoccupied homes to prevent freezing of the interior plumbing fixtures.
  • Protect water pipes that pass through utility rooms, garage areas, basements and crawl spaces, that receive minimum heat and are exposed to drafts.
  • Meters that are set in utility rooms or other unheated areas will freeze-up and burst. The customer is responsible for the replacement cost of these damaged meters.
  • As a precaution, we recommend you check all of the above mentioned areas to reduce the risk of frozen pipes and frozen meters.

There is nothing in the water supply that will cause glassware etching. This is caused by the strong phosphate sequestrants (trisodium phosphate) found in dishwasher detergents. It can be made even worse by a combination of extremely hot water, softened water, and too much detergent.

High water temperature can cause the detergent’s phosphate compounds to break down into a more aggressive form. However, if the water contains any amount of natural hardness, it will consume the most aggressive of these sequestering chemicals and etching will not occur. Otherwise, the detergent agents can actually extract elements directly from the glassware composition.

Although most dishwashers are available with a sanitary cycle that super-heats the wash and rinse water, the solution to the etching problem is to use less detergent and water temperature less than 140 degrees. Your dishes and glassware will get cleaned just as well and you will eliminate this problem.

There is nothing in the water supply that will cause this and there is probably nothing wrong with your dishwasher. However, stains, spotting and pitting found on the surface of flatware can be caused by a number of factors. Here are a few suggestions that may help prevent this problem from occurring.

Flatware and utensils that will be standing for several hours, or longer, prior to machine washing should be rinsed thoroughly. Direct and prolonged contact with foods such as table salt, vinegar, mayonnaise, milk products, salad dressings, tomatoes, fruit juices, seafood and butter can tarnish flatware.

Separate items carefully when loading the flatware basket. Never put dissimilar metal items in the same compartment. Direct contact between stainless steel, steel, chrome and aluminum utensils can cause damage due to electrolysis. Avoid cramming utensils into the basket to allow water to reach all surfaces. This insures each piece is properly washed, rinsed and drained.

Always avoid any contact between flatware and detergent when filling dispensers. Detergent that adheres to soiled or damp flatware can result in contact corrosion that will appear as blackish spots or pits.

Similar staining and discoloration may also occur on stainless steel and aluminum cookware washed in an automatic dishwasher.

Total per capita water usage varies depending on location, season of the year and what types of water consuming appliances are utilized in the home. The U.S. average is nearly 70 gallons per person used each day. Of this, the amount people actually use for drinking and cooking is only about 2%, and varies widely among individuals.

Because of other uses in the community water suppliers pump much more water than is used in households.A recent national study of water suppliers showed that to supply water needed for all uses, the average amount of water pumped daily was 180 gallons per person.

In the home, toilet flushing is by far the largest single use of water. Toilets can use anywhere from 1.6 to 6 gallons of water for each flush. On the other hand, a dishwasher uses about 50% less water than the amount used when you wash and rinse dishes by hand.

Without counting lawn watering, typical percentages of household water use are as follows:

  • Toilet flushing – 40%
  • Baths and Showers – 32%
  • Laundry – 14%
  • Dishwashing – 6%
  • Cooking and drinking – 5%
  • Miscellaneous – 3%