Water Efficiency Guidelines for Water Supply Projects in the Southeast

Providing a clean and reliable water supply is of growing concern for many Southeastern communities, as well as communities across the United States.

Among the available solutions, reservoirs, created by damming rivers to capture and store water, are often the first choice of water utilities. Water supply reservoirs are viewed as a quick fix, but in reality, planning and building a water supply reservoir is an expensive, multi-year process with substantial challenges. 

Water supply reservoirs also have significant negative environmental impacts on clean water and river health and do not address the root of the problem – our water supply is limited and needs to be used wisely.

There are many lower impact supply options that should be implemented prior to the development of a new reservoir. The first and best water supply solution is water efficiency. In the Southeast, where rainfall averages over 50 inches a year, it is water waste that is the hidden reservoir that should be tapped first. It is water efficiency that can provide the cost-effective, least damaging, timely alternative to reservoirs.

Before a community can build a reservoir, they must first secure a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and meet certain criteria established by the Clean Water Act. The permit request is also reviewed by US EPA who ensures that the “least damaging, practicable alternative” has been evaluated and selected.

Given that water efficiency is often the least damaging, cost-effective water supply option, US EPA Region 4, developed guidelines to assist communities seeking new water supplies to better understand the water efficiency options that they need to consider prior to applying for a permit to construct a water supply reservoir.