Indoor Water Conservation Methods

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What It Is

Water conservation methods are engineering or behavioral practices that help save water.[1] Examples of indoor water conservation methods include fixing faulty plumbing, using water-efficient appliances, and creating water conservation plans.

 

Why It Matters

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “with the U.S. population doubling over the past 50 years, our thirst for water tripling, and at least 36 states facing water shortages by 2013, the need to conserve water is becoming more and more critical.”[2]

Furthermore, many utility companies are raising water rates in response to dwindling resources. Conserving water can help curtail these shortages while helping an organization save money.

 

Getting Started

    • Step One: Track your water usage.
    • Step Two: Be mindful of your water habits.
    • Step Three: Fix leaky fixtures and appliances.


Step One: Track water usage.

Determining how much water you use will help you spot opportunities to save. To track water use, read your water meter or monitor your water bills. You can contact your local water utility provider to find out how to read your water meter. Portfolio Manager, a tracking tool from Energy Star, can also help you start tracking your water usage.

 

Step Two: Be mindful of water habits.

Encouraging employees to change their water habits can conserve water at zero cost to your business. Consider posting signs in bathrooms and near faucets that promote water-conserving habits. Good water habits include:

    • Using the lowest water pressure necessary
    • Running water only when you need it
    • Keeping drinking water in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to let water run to cool.[3]


Step Three: Fix leaky fixtures.

Depending on the severity of the leak, one leaky faucet can waste 2,000 gallons of water per year. A running toilet may lose as much as 100 gallons per day.

Fixing leaky fixtures and appliances is a simple way to save water. To detect a slow leak in a toilet, you can put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank.  Wait 20 minutes and if the colored water leaks into the bowl (without flushing), you have a slow leak.  Other leaks, like dripping faucets or overflowing toilets, will be more obvious.

For tips on how to fix leaky plumbing, watch How To Fix a Leaky Faucet and How To Fix a Leaky Toilet Tank.  However, when in doubt, call a plumber.

 

Going Further

To take your organization’s indoor water conservation efforts further, you can install water-efficient appliances. Water-efficient appliances include:

    • Dual flush and low-flow toilets
    • Faucet sensors
    • Low-flow faucets
    • Low-flow shower heads
    • No-flush urinals
    • Water-efficient dishwashers
    • Water-efficient washing machines


The EPA certifies water-efficient appliances with its ‘WaterSense‘ label. Look for it when you purchase new appliances and fixtures.  You can search here for WaterSense products online.

Also, be sure to search for rebates on water-efficient products using the American Standard website.

If you cannot get new appliances, consider improving the water efficiency of your old ones. For example, you can use a plastic quart bottle to increase the water efficiency of a toilet.  Just fill the bottle with water, add a few pebbles, and place it in the tank.[4] The bottle will limit the volume of water used per flush.

Another good, inexpensive option is to retrofit your faucet with a low-flow aerator, which typically cost about $1 to $4.

For tips on how to improve the efficiency of your water heater, click here.

 

Advanced Steps

    • Step One: Use gray water cycling
    • Step Two: Install infrared (IR) systems in bathrooms


Step One: Gray Water Cycling

Gray water cycling involves capturing used water (except from toilets) for reuse. It is used successfully in arid climates where water conservation is a very high priority. However, it may require a second piping system.

For more information about gray water capture, visit Greywater Action. For information about engineering and policy challenges, read this article on the Consulting-Specifying Engineer website.

Step Two: Infrared Systems

Install infrared (IR) systems in bathrooms, so that faucets stay on only when needed. These systems will not only increase your water savings, but customers are likely to appreciate the additional sanitary benefits they provide.

 

Resources for More Information

  • American Standard savings calculator can help you calculate your potential savings with water-conserving products.
  • CalRecycle provides information on xeriscaping (i.e., water-efficient landscaping).
  • For more on environmental landscaping, visit EnviroLandscaping.org.
  • The City of Santa Barbara created a water conservation tip sheet.
  • This PDF from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources provides an in-depth guide to designing a water management strategy for your business.
  • Visit the Water Use It Wisely website to find water conservation resources in your area, including rebates and incentive programs.
  • Water Conservation, Mono Lake Committee
  • Water-efficient Toilets by Fusion
  • What Quality: It’s In Our Hands by Barbara Lucas on Vimeo


Conclusion

Water conservation saves money on water bills, is good for the environment, and will help ensure that water supplies last.

 

Glossary of Related Terms

Water Efficiency: Using the least amount of water possible to perform a task.

Water-Efficient Appliance: An appliance that limits or reduces the amount of water needed to perform a task (e.g., sensor controlled faucets, low-flow toilets, no-flush urinals). For more information on water efficient appliances, check out WaterSense.


[1] “How to Conserve Water and Use It Effectively” US Environmental Protection Agency, 13 January 2010, http://www.epa.gov/owow/NPS/nps-conserve.html, accessed 26 July 2013.

[2] “Water Conservation,” US Environmental Protection Agency, 5 November 2012, http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/water/, accessed 26 July 2013.

[3] “Conserve Water,” Global Stewards, http://www.globalstewards.org/conserve-water.htm, accessed 26 July 2013.

[4] “Indoor Water Conservation Tips,” City of Turlock, http://www.turlock.ca.us/citydepartments/municipalservices/gogreen/waterconservation.asp, accessed 26 July 2013.

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