Consumers are becoming more and more conscious of their water footprints. That’s why contractors and vendors of plumbing hardware are fielding more questions about ways of cutting water consumption. Some of this is driven by a desire to improve sustainability, and some of it is just about saving money. If you’re in the plumbing industry, you need to understand the issues and the options.
Where is it used?
The average person uses close to 100 gallons of water per day -- around a quarter of that is for flushing! No one is suggesting that you flush less often, but modern sanitary fixtures use less water per flush.
Water is becoming more expensive
Whether you blame an aging infrastructure, population growth, or drought, the result is the same: the price of water is rising by 4 percent or more year-on-year. Plus, disposal is costing more. If you can use less, that also means less water going down the drain.
Sustainability is a growing concern
Residential, commercial, and industrial water consumers are becoming more interested in reducing their environmental impact. Some are pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification for their buildings, while others just want to use less.
Plumbing and LEED
LEED scores sustainability on a points system. Plumbing offers a number of relatively easy “wins.” For example:
- Use EPA WaterSense-certified fixtures
- Reuse water
- Install “smart” sprinkler systems
- Install solar water heating
The WaterSense program
Plumbing fixtures and fittings that meet EPA specifications can earn WaterSense certification. Toilets, showerheads, and faucets are just some of the products meeting their requirements for water efficiency and performance.
Water from showers, sinks, washing machines, and dishwashers isn’t fit for drinking, but neither is it heavily contaminated. With little to no treatment, it’s suitable for uses such as irrigation and toilet flushing (which turns it into “black” water). Always check local codes before implementing a graywater system, as regulations vary around the country.
How often do you see sprinklers running when it’s raining? While simple moisture sensing systems have been around for years, WiFi and the internet have added new levels of sophistication. Some systems will even check local weather forecasts before deciding if your plants and lawn need watering.
A solar water heating system does more to reduce energy consumption than water usage but still results in cost savings and a more sustainable lifestyle.
Another sustainable approach is to install a tankless water heater. These heat water only when it’s needed, rather than maintaining a tank at temperature all day long. Typically this approach uses 22 percent less energy than the conventional tank approach. And if the heater can go closer to where the water is needed, there’s most likely also a saving in water, too.
Be ready for “sustainability”
Everyone has an interest in using less water, and plumbing systems have a key part to play. Know what’s possible and available in order to meet your customer’s needs.