April Update:

Drinking in the water data

4/29/20243 min read

Council will be focusing on the city budget until late May. But meanwhile, community events are busting out like May flowers—from Newton Serves on May 6, the Seedling Sale at the Community Farm May 18 & 19, the Community Breakfast May 22 and lots more.

In this update, I want to look at the replacement of water meters, and the new transponder dashboard system.

But if all you want is the short updates and fun events, jump to:

Water data here—or coming soon

Our house just got a new water meter from the city—and the expected catch-up bill after three years of estimates (more on that here, including payment options).

What I didn’t expect is how cool the new Customer Portal system is. Once you have the new meter and transponder, follow the instructions on page two of this (remember to remove the dashes in your account number.)

Your portal dashboard gives you real-time as well as historic (as of the new meter) data on when and how much water you use. Because there should be no water use when you aren’t home (outside of irrigation), you can detect leaks. And you can start to adjust your water usage (do you save water when doing larger laundry loads, or smaller, more frequent ones? Now you can test that). The alert function will notify you if water usage spikes—handy if you are away from home and your system springs a leak.

So, for instance, I can see that we used no water on a weekend we were away (yellow highlight), and had higher usage once two guests arrived (orange highlight).

The average Newton household uses about 61 hundred cubic feet, or 46,000 gallons, of drinking water annually (Boston uses less, Brookline more). You can see Newton’s usage and rates (and that of every other MWRA community) in the MWRA Advisory Board’s annual rate survey here. The US average, according to the American Water Works Association, is 88,000 gallons/year. With each new appliance –and especially new toilet—water usage decreases.

The average single-family home in the US and Canada uses 138 gallons/day, but new homes average 110 gallons/day.

Want to save on your indoor water usage? Toilets use the most water—so switching to a new one will help. The next-highest is faucets, and a screw-on aerator can help with that.

Currently, just under half of Newton households have new meters. To find out if yours is coming soon, check out this map. (Gray areas are yet to be scheduled.)  


Commonwealth Ave Celebration: One of Newton’s best cross-town routes for bikes has seen its safety improved with low-cost signage, targeted road markings, and a few changes in curb ramps and pavements. It’s time to celebrate that. So, to kick off Bike-to-Work-Week, I will be joining Bike Newton, Mayor Fuller and Carriage Road champion Jane Hanser at a ribbon cutting for the Carriage Road safety project May 13, 8-10 am with coffee and refreshments.

Washington Street Pilot vote: May 15, 7 pm at the Public Facilities Committee of council. This is a vote and discussion on the 75% design and metrics to be used to judge its effects.

Parking: PS&T Chair Rebecca Grossman and I drafted a background memo to summarize previous discussions about the current overnight parking ban, lessons learned, and arguments for and against. Did we miss something? Let us know. PS&T in its meeting last week decided to work on alternative programs as a committee. (Email me for a copy.)

What I’m reading—local transportation: many in Newton will be affected if and when the MassPike viaduct gets either repaired or torn down and replaced. A full explanation of the current project status (updated regularly) is here.

What I’m weeding: Every year, Katherine Howard and a small but mighty group of conservation volunteers pull invasive plants from our park and conservation lands. This work is important to preserving our natural biodiversity—keeping butterflies, bugs, amphibians, birds and even ourselves alive. You can help in your garden—by removing those plants that we know are harmful. Here’s where to go to find out what some of them look like and how to manage them. You can also volunteer to help here.

Fun events: Check out the listings at the Newton Cultural Alliance, the Hyde Center, Fig City, the Beacon and more. 

Among other events, I will be attending the Community Breakfast and Conservators annual meeting, if you want to catch up in person.