The Healthy Abode – Water Conservation
by Melanie Holden 10.6.09
Do you realize how easy it is to save water in your home without sacrificing the performance or design of your plumbing fixtures? A simple way to identify high performance, water conserving fixtures is with the WaterSense label. Products that have achieved this label will be at least 20% more efficient than conventional models.
Similar to the EnergyStar program, WaterSense is sponsored by the EPA to protect the future of our water supply and promote water efficiency. WaterSense qualified fixtures must be tested to verify that they not only meet the required flow rate, but also that they perform as well or better than conventional models.
So, why should we conserve water to begin with? St. Louis is located between two great rivers, and water in our area is a relatively inexpensive utility. However, a recent government survey showed that at least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages within just 4 years. Need a few more reasons?
Population growth – Water-loving Americans use an average of 100 gallons of water every day. With more and more people inhabiting our beautiful planet, hundreds more gallons are being used every day. Less than 1% of all the water on earth can be used as drinking water. To put this in relative terms, if all the water in the world were fit into a gallon jug, the fresh water available for use would equal only about 1 tablespoon!
Cost – The average household spends up to $500 / year on water and sewer bills. By making a few changes to your fixtures, each household could save approximately $170 / year.
Energy Consumption – It requires a considerable amount of energy to deliver and treat the water that we use everyday. For example, allowing your faucet to run for 5 minutes uses about as much energy as leaving a 60 watt light bulb on for 14 hours. Approximately 4% of the nation’s electricity consumption is used for moving and treating water. If 1% of the population replaced older toilets with WaterSense labeled ones, the US would save enough electricity to power over 40,000 homes for a month!
So, what kind of fixtures are WaterSense qualified? At this point, only faucets and toilets can boast the WaterSense label. WaterSense is such a new program that they are still determining what the flow rate for a WaterSense Showerhead or Handshower should be – likely 2GPM (gallons per minute).
WaterSense Faucets use only 1.5GPM or less as compared to 2.75GPM for conventional faucets. If you’re not in the market for a new faucet, a simple solution would be to change your existing aerator to a low-flow aerator. This simple and inexpensive step can save up to 14,700 gallons of water every year, which equates to a 45% savings of your annual water use at each faucet! Also, repair those leaky faucets! It can save up to 140 gallons of water every week.
WaterSense and High Efficiency Toilets, use a maximum of 1.28GPF (gallons per flush) vs. conventional toilets that use 1.6GPF, or even up to 3GPF for models older 16 years. Dual Flush Toilets, like Kohler’s Strela shown below, provide the option for a big or small flush, depending on your needs. Even if you’re not in the market for a shiny new toilet, you could place a bottle of water in your existing tank to displace some of the water, resulting in a lower GPF.
You can also check for a leaky toilet by putting food coloring in your tank. If the coloring seeps into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Replacing an inexpensive leaky flapper can save thousands of gallons each month. Another way to conserve water in the home includes installing a urinal. With 1GPF, .5GPF and waterless options – like the Kohler Steward shown below – it makes sense to include a urinal in a newly constructed or remodeled bathroom.
There are also low-flow showerheads and handshowers available, even though they are not yet WaterSense labeled. Provided that you have a shower valve that can handle the lower flow rate, changing out the showerheads from the conventional 2.5GPM to one with either a 1.75 or 2GPM flow rate can conserve up to 7700 gallons of water per year.
You may have noticed that I’ve showcased a number of Kohler WaterSense fixtures in this article. Kohler has been named WaterSense Partner of the Year in both 2008 and 2009. An excellent local resource for Kohler, and other quality brands, of water-conserving plumbing fixtures is Crescent Plumbing Supply. http://crescentsupply.com/
Other great water conserving ideas for the home include installing a Hot Water Dispenser or a Touchless Faucet. Hot Water Dispensers avoid the need to let the water run while waiting for it to get hot, and Touchless Faucets will only run with the faucet is in use. Another great idea for the environment includes Water Filtering Faucets, which would eliminate the need for disposable plastic bottled water.
Want to learn a little more? Spend 90 more seconds out of your day taking this Water Conservation quiz and Kohler will donate $1.00 in water-conserving products to Habitat for Humanity: http://www.savewateramerica.com/home.swa#/home/