Water Efficiency

Category: Green Building     Author: Scott Allred     Posted: Wednesday - November 19, 2014

Water Efficiency continues to be on everyone’s mind.  Although recent tropical rains have eased our drought for the immediate future, much of our state to the west continues to experience moderate to severe drought conditions. In association with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the NAHB National Green Building Program encourages new home builders to incorporate fixtures and appliances, such as low-flow showerheads, faucets, toilets, and Energy Star dishwashers and washing machines,  all which help conserve water.

Building upon the popularity of the Energy Star program, the Environmental Protection Agency developed the WaterSense program in 2006. WaterSense will help consumers identify water-efficient products and programs. The WaterSense label will indicate that these products and programs meet water efficiency and performance criteria. WaterSense labeled products will perform well, help save money, and encourage innovation in manufacturing.

In order to be considered for a WaterSense label, products must:

  • Perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.

  • Be about 20 percent more water-efficient than average products in that category.

  • Realize water savings on a national level.

  • Provide measurable results.

  • Achieve water efficiency through several technology options.

  • Be effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label.

  • Be independently certified.

The EPA now plans to extend the label to whole houses using specifications that will be finalized by the end of 2008.Qualifying houses will be equipped with WaterSense plumbing fixtures as well as Energy Star washing machines and dishwashers (which use less water, as well as less energy, than standard machines), and will use water-efficient plumbing layouts that minimize the time residents must run faucets waiting for hot water—achieving a 20% reduction in water use compared with conventional houses.

By making just a few small changes to your daily routine, you can save a significant amount of water, which will help you save money and preserve water supplies for future generations.  Upgrading to water efficient plumbing fixtures and adopting the following water-efficient practices will save money and protect the environment:

  • Faucets - Leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year. Replace your leaky faucet with a low-flow model. A complete list of water saving faucets is available at Additionally, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals 240 gallons a month.

  • Toilets - If your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses at least 3.5 to 6 gallons per flush.  New and improved high-efficiency models use as little as 1.3 gallons per flush—that's at least 60 percent less than their older, less efficient counterparts. For example, a family of three that replaces toilets using five gallons per flush with new ones, which use 1.6 gallons, could save more than 15,000 gallons or about $100 per year. Toilet use accounts for about 30 percent of water used in the home. So whether you're remodeling a bathroom, building a new home, or simply replacing an old, leaky toilet, a WaterSense labeled toilet is a high-performing, water-efficient option worth considering.

  • Shower or Bath - A full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. Showering represents approximately 17 percent of residential indoor water use in the United States. Since 1994, all showerheads have been required to use no more than 2.5 gallons of water a minute, less than half that of many older models. There are several low flow shower heads on the market that use 1.6 gallon per minute and cost around $20.00.

  • Washing Machines - The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load.

  • High-efficiency front loading washing machines use less than 25 gallons of water per load. To achieve even greater savings, wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate load size selection on the washing machine.

  • Lawn Irrigation - The typical single-family household uses at least 30 percent of their water outdoors for irrigation. Some experts estimate that more than 50 percent of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation or runoff caused by over-watering. Drip irrigation systems use between 20 to 50 percent less water than conventional in-ground sprinkler systems and are more efficient because no water is lost to wind, runoff, and evaporation.

  • Install a Tankless Water Heater – Unlike "conventional" tank water heaters, tankless water heaters heat water only as it is used, or on demand. A tankless unit has a heating device that is activated by the flow of water when a hot water valve is opened. Once activated, the heater delivers a constant supply of hot water. Additionally, most tankless models have a life expectancy of more than 20 years compared to 10 years for a conventional water heater.

  • Dishwashers – Consider upgrading to an Energy Star model and only full loads should be washed.

  • Recirculation Systems - Installing a hot water recirculation system can prevent water running down the drain while waiting for hot water to arrive. These systems use sensors and a pump to quickly deliver hot water to the faucet while recirculating the cooled water in the pipes back to the water heater. The system costs less than $400 installed and can save a family of four up to 12,000 gallons of water a year, almost the equivalent of the amount of water a person drinks during their entire lifetime.

Save Water, Save Energy
According to the EPA, it takes a considerable amount of energy to deliver and treat the water you use everyday. American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year. For example, letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.

By reducing household water use you can not only help reduce the energy required to supply and treat public water supplies but also can help address climate change. In fact:

  • If one out of every 100 American homes retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year!

  • If 1 percent of American homes replaced their older, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the country would save more than 38 million kWh of electricity—enough to supply more than 43,000 household’s electricity for one month.

Water utilities across the United States can save substantial amounts of water by encouraging water efficiency. These savings often translate into capital and operating savings, which allow utilities to defer or avoid significant expenses for water supply facilities and wastewater facilities. Put simply, the best way to avoid the need for costly large-scale expansion tomorrow is to start increasing water efficiency today.