Why does Vadnais Heights use so much water? ‘Girls,’ official says

The girls of Vadnais Heights are wasting water according to the experts who know their water.

Vadnais Heights is one of 10 northeast metro communities under a court order to reduce water usage, but it has the highest per capita use, 83 gallons per person. That’s 11 gallons per person more than the second-biggest user of water (Stillwater).

The court order is designed to stem the falling water level of White Bear Lake, as communities pump out more water from the aquifer that supports it.

Who’s to blame for the wastefulness?

It’s hard to say. And when it’s hard to say, you don’t want to guess.

The Vadnais Heights Press suggests a city official guessed.

City Engineer Mark Graham said he is not sure why the city’s water use is so high; his best guess is perhaps the city has more girls who take long showers. Water meters don’t differentiate between types of use, he noted.

The second amendment to the permit prohibits residential irrigation when the level of White Bear Lake is below 924 feet.

Graham said he doesn’t know how many homes in Vadnais Heights have auto irrigation systems and whether or not the irrigation ban would get the city down to 75 gallons per person per day. “It’s hard to say,” he noted. The 83 gallons is an average, year-round number. The city already has an odd/even days residential irrigation ban.

There’s been a proposal to run a pipeline from Vadnais Lake to White Bear, using the Mississippi River to recharge Vadnais Lake from the chain of lakes.

“The more we think about this, I think we should just send a bunch of river water to these rich people on White Bear Lake and say ‘Here, there is your water you want, right straight out of the Mississippi River,’” Councilman Greg Urban said.

  • chlost

    I’ve heard the predictions for water wars, and the likelihood of how that will pit us against each other. I have always pictured it as Arizona or California vs. Minnesota or other Great Lakes states. But it looks as though we may have a big war brewing right here within the exurbs/suburbs of the Twin Cities. Nasty. btw, how many breweries are there in the Twin Cities now? Maybe THEY are using all of the water, rather than the “girls”. What happens then?

    • This isn’t a metro-wide issue (yet). It’s specific to Vadnais Heights and the area surrounding White Bear Lake. There are very few breweries in that area.

      What I would like to know is if anyone pressed that city engineer as to why he thinks it’s girls who are taking the long showers?

      • amycrea

        That’s my question. My youngest son has always taken ridiculously long showers, no matter how much we scolded him about it. Far longer than I’ve ever taken a shower, as a teenager or any other stage of life.

        • Kassie

          What percent of children in town are the long showering girls that they use 11 gallons of water more per person than the next highest suburb? It seems to me that if boy children are not being born, or worse, coming to some sort of early death, then it probably should be investigated. I need a documentary about the weirdness happening in Vadnais Heights and their lack of boys.

          • Jerry

            So what your saying is that Vadnais Heights and Colorado City are sister cities?

        • jon

          I’ve got a motion sensor in the bathroom for the light switch… it can’t see into the shower…. so after 10 minutes the lights turn out… at that point you can keep showering in the dark, or you can get out of the shower. (also there’s ~2 minute of hot water left at that point… so you can’t shower in the dark for long…)

      • RBHolb

        “What I would like to know is if anyone pressed that city engineer as to why he thinks it’s girls who are taking the long showers?”

        I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but if I lived in Vadnais Heights, I would make doubly sure that the blinds were covering my bathroom windows.

  • Mike Worcester

    //The second amendment to the permit prohibits residential irrigation when the level of White Bear Lake is below 924 feet.

    Clueless commentary of city appointees aside, I’d be curious to know how much commercial irrigation — not ag-related — contributes to water usage. Sprinkling landscaping, fountains, etc.

    • 212944

      I cannot speak to other ‘burbs, but have observed many times myself commercial and HOA-irrigated properties in Woodbury that are running *during* downpours as well as within days and even hours of rainfall.

      Recently, the city of Woodbury began offering “smart” irrigation controllers to homeowners at a reduced price ($20 or so … I got mine free through a grant that the city had two years ago and it has worked wonderfully). In the promotional materials for the homeowners about the offer, there was text about “encouraging your HOA to consider adding” these. Seems the city should have more teeth in dealing with HOAs for such an important resource.

      Also, if you have a lawn and use an irrigation system, look into a “smart” controller and a rain sensor. It is an easy way to reduce waste.

      • STPCommuter

        As a city-dwelling home-owner, I’ve learned that I rarely if ever need to water my lawn. Shade helps, I suppose, which some newer developments don’t have the advantage of, but it’s pretty easy to simply let the grass get a little longer if we’re in a mild drought. Watering excessively and then needing to mow every week is crazy!

        • Rob

          That is some good learning.

        • D.Robot

          Agreed. I also put hostas in a border alonside my tree line so that when I do mow I don’t have all that detail work to do around the trees.

  • Guest

    Side point: When women were first allowed on aircraft carriers, the water usage shot up. This was a concern for the operational range of the ship, since it used fuel to distill salt water to fresh for the showers. The women were accused of taking longer showers.

    They responded, we are such a small % of the crew, it couldn’t be us even if we used triple the normal.

    Turns out it was the guys taking showers a lot more frequently. They didn’t want to stink in front of the ladies, hadn’t cared about sweaty bodies among guys only, DID care about sweat and stink in front of the gals.

    How long would every shower by every gal in every house have to be, in order to explain the extra level of usage???

  • Gary F

    National industry code for showerheads is 2.5 Gallons per minute at 60PSI.

    St Paul is closing down one its reservoirs at Snelling and Ford Parkway because water usage has declined. From what I can tell, St Paul has a lot of girls.

    • seedhub

      What is “national industry code”?

      • Gary F

        Besides me being dumb and not proof reading before posting. The industry standard and code requirement for shower head per the EPA, ASME, and ASPE.

  • KTFoley

    Was the City Engineer being even halfway serious, or was he trying to say that he can’t possibly answer the question of where the extra water usage has been going?

    One tells us just how deeply the gender-based inanity can be rooted in a person, the other tells us that this professional needs to brush up on systematic approaches to problem investigation.

    • J-dawg

      Maybe he is making a highly uneducated guess by simply extrapolating his perceptions of what happens in his own household.

      People tend to assume their own experiences are universal, when they aren’t thinking very hard.

      • KTFoley

        He’s an engineer who is speaking in his official capacity with press present.

        That was either at the City Council meeting or at the workshop that preceded it; it’s not like someone barreled up to him on the street and demanded answers out of the blue.

        If all he can come up with is to blame the women he knows, why should the city employ him for his degree?

        • J-dawg

          Trump makes up bogus nonsense while speaking in his official capacity with press present all the time. It’s all the rage!

          • KTFoley

            And my question at the end gets less & less rhetorical.

  • Eric Hall

    We are very unscientific when it comes to water use, why not just add some sexism on top of it?

    For example, we use low volume toilets, but as any person who has used them can tell you, flushing 1.2 gallons 4 times is alot more than 2.5 gallons 1 time.

    For that matter, why do we flush with fresh water. I’d rather have an old time toilet that uses the soapy water from the sink and shower to flush than waste that clean water.

    Just imagine if we had left phosphates in our soap and irrigated our lawns with that water. Green grass and less water used!

    • D.Robot

      Grey water going from your bath sink into your toilet would probably foul the float mechanism with all kinds of microbial film and slime and be a hazard to you when you open it up to clean it, risk re infecting you with all the bugs you ever picked up when you got sick in the past.

      Phosphates in our soap require additional facilities at the sewage treatment plant, in order to TRY removing it. The excess nutrients could wind up as a green film on the Mississippi, low dissolved oxygen and fish kill.

      A better way to save water and irrigate is just to whiz in a container, dilute it 10 fold with rainwater and use that for your outdoor plants. Nitrogen is usually a better nutrient for growing plants than phosphorous.

      • Eric Hall

        No need for a float. These are pretty common in Japan – https://toiletfound.com/save-water-money-toilet-sink-combo/

        I think you missed my point on phosphates. Right now, we have to add phosphates to fertilizer in order to get plants to grow well. Of course, people often use too much and that ends up in the lakes and rivers anyway. If we instead used laundry water for irrigation for lawns and crops, and used phosphate soap (which would save energy because the cycle wouldn’t have to be as long), then we could potentially end up with less phosphorus in the water overall. Granted, it would take planning and infrastructure changes. But I’m saying if we got multiple uses out of the same water and same phosphorus, it could be better overall.

        • Back when I lived in the hills of Massachusetts and had a (not very good septic system) i can verify that I had cosmos plants that were about 8 feet high.

        • D.Robot

          Interesting and sensible toilet / sink design, but ther is still a float and shutoff valve and I imagine that the tank can become quite nasty, probably a good idea to flush some bleach down the drain once in a while. It’d be interesting to see how reliable it is.

          Reusing water is a great idea, but going back to using phosphates will end up with it in wastewater and then in the river. If every house runs the laundry water outside for irrigation, those planning, infrastructure and building code changes are significant. Holding tanks and pumps for that stuff, then the whole “what do we do with that water between November and April?”, sanitary and health concerns and so on.

  • Postal Customer

    You want people to conserve water? Then bill them in a way that encourages conservation. Not sure how Vadnais Heights does it, but that’s not what my city does. My city jacked up the flat bill several years ago, but the per-unit price barely budged. That gives me an incentive to use MORE water so I get my money’s worth.

    The city didn’t like it when people conserved water because they made less money.

    • Mike Worcester

      We do water like we do refuse — charge them the same per month no matter how many times we tip the tote or how full it might be. For many cities the base fee is what they use to pay their bonds, that way they can budget for a fairly certain amount of revenue each year (# of accounts x base fee = the needed amount of $$). Not even close to being fair to people like me when I was a bachelor and using maybe 1100 gallons a month paying not much less than the family of five down the block who used 4000/mo…minimum.

  • Charlie Hurd

    Oh good, another comment taken out of context to vilify a man.

    • Jerry

      When will us poor men catch a break?

    • Rob

      I feel your pain – not.

  • Charlie Hurd

    Bob Collins asks me how the engineer’s comments were taken out of context, after he quotes from another news source. So now we have a third-hand account written about one comment in what was likely a lengthy discussion. I’ve been on a city council, a lot gets said, much of it in jest. You really have to be there to know what actually happened and what people likely meant. But, who cares, news man Bob can generate some click bait by running someone down for saying something silly that was taken out of context.

    • Rob

      Not sure how a sexist comment made by a city official, even if it’s said in jest, is ever justified.

    • Ah. You said it was taken out of context, so I just presumed you knew HOW it was taken out of context. Doesn’t look like you do.

      • Charlie Hurd

        Isn’t it up to news people to check with original sources and make sure that the information is in the correct context? Did you do this? Did you call him and ask him for a statement?

        • Actually blogs — web log — is by its nature a collection of links and story sources.

          And of course, comments from the very insightful audience willing to add value.

          • Charlie Hurd

            So you’re not really a journalist?

          • Oh Charlie, must you always be so exquisitely “you”?

            And, no, I don’t describe myself as either a journalist or a reporter.

            On this blog, you will ALWAYS find attribution and a link to a story’s source and I always expect reporters and editors to do have done due diligence on their work and if they haven’t then I won’t use them again.

            Now, what is the context you think is missing because you explicitly said it was taken out of context?

  • Rob

    Wonder how many times Graham showers in a week. If he showers every day, he’s doing it wrong. He could be a cheerleader for reduced water usage by cutting his own shower usage, and encouraging the city’s residents to do likewise. A little soap, a washcloth, and the bathroom sink are more than sufficient to make every-other-day showers more than enough to keep the average person presentable for interacting with family, friends and co-workers.

    • Bah. I shower every day. Why? I like hot water in the morning.

      we’re not animals.

      • Rob

        //We’re not animals.// Last time I checked, we were.

      • Mike Worcester

        My beloved has spent time in France and one aspect of their culture that she noticed right off was that they did not deem it necessary to shower daily. They felt it was wasteful and bad for your body. I know, insert France jokes here :). Still, it’s interesting to see how other cultures view daily bathing/showering as not necessary.

        P.S. — I like hot water in the morning also, quite needed to wake up.

        • D.Robot

          I think you guys are both nuts if you’re bathing in the morning, especially in the wintertime. Then you can open up all your pores, possibly have damp hair and go outside and get chilled. Also, not get clean before you go to bed, rather than after?

          • That one’s easy. Why do I want to wake up before I go to bed?

            Nobody’s making YOU take a nice hot shower in the morning.

          • D.Robot

            Waking up an hour or more before bed is preferable to me over having sweat and dirt and what not from the day’s work with me in bed.

          • Not a lot of sweat and dirt in the blogging business.

          • D.Robot

            For sure, but even if you don’t have to leave the house, it’s a good idea for most every human to get regular aerobic exercise, and that means sweating. Take care, D

  • D.Robot

    It’s one guy like Cosmo Kramer, living in the shower 24/7 and using 100000 gal a month…. Or a leak in the distribution system maybe?