Saving water isn't really an option if we look long term because less than 1% of the water on Earth can be used by people! You might not feel the pinch yet, but communities across the US are focusing on the challenges of maintaining healthy and affordable water supplies, and there's a new WaterSense program similar to EnergyStar, to help us use our water wisely and not waste it.
Still not sure why saving water is important (facts from VisualEconomics.com)?
- World population growth is expected to grow from 6.7 billion in 2010, to 9 billion in 2050.
- People need water to drink, to bathe and to support the growth of additional food.
- By 2030, nearly half the world's population will be living under severe water stress (defined by Wikipedia as the difficulty of obtaining sources of fresh water for use, because of depleting resources).
While agriculture is the largest user of fresh water, everyone can contribute to saving water by using it more efficiently and by making lifestyle changes, like a smaller lawn that requires less watering. The EPA WaterSense label is a new tool similar to the EnergyStar labeling we've come to depend on when buying home products.
Building New Homes With 20% Less Water Use
You've got to put more effort into building a house today. Building codes are changing rapidly and there are many new products and materials coming on the market, so a bit of research will allow you to make the right decisions for your home and family … as ultimately, you're the one who will live there and pay the utility bills. WaterSense is a new program from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help you insure your new home meets WaterSense specifications.
Here's what the WaterSense program focuses on for new home construction. There's quite a bit more information (see WaterSense Specifications for New Homes) along with checklists for including WaterSense in home inspections.
- WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures independently certified for efficiency and performance – toilets and flushing urinals, bathroom faucets and shower heads.
- An efficient hot water delivery system storing no more than 0.5 gallons of water between the source of hot water (the water heater or a recirculation loop) and the furthest fixture in the home. You'll start to see hot water heaters located inside the home rather than the garage, to reduce the distance that hot water must travel … so we stop wasting water, waiting for our hot showers.
- EnergyStar clothes washer and dishwasher.
- Maximum service pressure of 60 psi which lowers the pressure coming into your home, which helps with leaks and damage from burst pipes, while saving water and money.
- … and obviously, no leaks!
- Lots of focus on landscape design and irrigation systems too.
Tips to Reduce Your Home Water Use
WaterSense isn't just for those who want to save the environment. Since the program began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 287 billion gallons of water and over $4.7 billion in water and energy bills. There are water savings opportunities throughout your house, ones you need do only once and more important, some that require changing how you do things like brushing your teeth.
- Fix leaks right away as even small leaks can waste gallons every day, and support mold growth and wood rot. Check these tips on finding and fixing leaks, on the EPA WaterSense website.
- Install or even replace older aerators in existing faucets (they're inexpensive and easy to screw on) to reduce the maximum flow rate of water coming out of your faucets.
- Run the water less indoors when brushing teeth, shaving and washing dishes by hand.
- Only run appliances when they're full like the dishwasher (the kids are gone so we only run ours once a week) and washing machine.
- Consider alternatives to running tap water like scraping food off plates instead of rinsing (hmm, this ones for me), starting a compost pile instead of using the garbage disposal, keeping a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator and thawing food in the refrigerator overnight … and I'm sure you know other ways to save water!
- Minimize use of the water hose when cleaning outdoors by sweeping the driveway or washing your car with a bucket.
- Landscaping can use lots of water, so read Landscaping Ideas for Water Conservation.