Water Efficiency Can Save the Southeast Over $700 million and New Water Supply for Over One Million Residents

American Rivers releases report, Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast

October 22nd, 2008

Amy Kober, American Rivers, 206-898-3864
Jenny Hoffner, American Rivers, 404-373-3602 or 404-784-5771
Angela Dicianno, 202-345-7550 x3103 or 202-674-1578 

Report available at www.AmericanRivers.org/WaterEfficiencyReport

Atlanta — The Southeast can save over $700 million and new water supply for over one million residents by embracing water efficiency solutions like stopping leaks and upgrading old buildings.  That’s according to the new report, Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast by American Rivers, the nation’s leading river conservation organization. The report outlines nine proven, timely and cost-effective steps that local leaders can take to save water and help ensure their rivers remain valuable community assets.

“Water efficiency is the 21st century solution to the drought-stricken Southeast’s water problems and must be the backbone of the region’s water supply strategy,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

“In this time of economic uncertainty and shrinking budgets, water efficiency is the answer for local leaders who want cost-effective, proven, and immediate water supply solutions,” Wodder said.

Water efficiency is far cheaper than getting supply through new dams — dams cost up to 8500 times more than water efficiency. 

The report calculates the potential savings for four Southeast cities: 

Metro Atlanta, Georgia

  • Water efficiency measures could yield between 130 and 210 million gallons a day (MGD), a 21-33% savings.
  • Metro Atlanta could save between $300 million and $700 million by pursuing water efficiency to secure water supply as compared to building new dams.
  • Total water saved is more than an entire new Lake Lanier which provides 178 MGD to Metro Atlanta.
  • Metro Atlanta could eliminate the need for all four of its planned reservoirs (totaling 98 MGD) two times over.
  • This water savings could provide water for 790,000 to 1,280,000 new residents.
     

Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Water efficiency measures could yield between 31 and 47 MGD, a 21-33% savings.
  • Charlotte could save between $75 million and $160 million by pursuing water efficiency to secure water supply as compared to building new dams.
  • This water savings could provide water for 135,000 to 205,240 new residents.
     

Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Water efficiency measures could yield between 13 and 20 MGD, a 27-40% savings.
  • Raleigh could save between $30 million and $60 million by pursuing water efficiency to secure water supply as compared to building new dams.
  • This water savings could provide water for 80,000 to 120,000 new residents.
     

Columbia, South Carolina

  • Water efficiency measures could yield between 18 and 27 MGD, a 18-27% savings.
  • Columbia could save between $45 million and $100 million by pursuing water efficiency to secure water supply as compared to building new dams.
  • This water savings could provide water for 75,000 to 120,000 new residents. 
     

The report outlines nine key policies and practices that local governments and utilities should adopt:

1. Stop leaks: Over six billion gallons of water are lost each day in the U.S. due to aging water distribution systems. Leaks should be fixed to stop this massive waste of water.

2. Price water right: Water should be priced to cover costs, encourage efficiency and ensure access to clean drinking water. We can do this, and still provide water for low-income residents at a reduced rate.

3. Meter all water users: Water meters should be installed in all new homes, multi-family apartment buildings, and businesses so water users can measure and monitor their consumption.

4. Retrofit all buildings: If all U.S. households installed water-efficient fixtures and appliances, the country would save more than 8.2 billion gallons per day enough water supply for all eight Southeastern states or 20% of total US consumption. 

5. Landscape to minimize water waste: On average, U.S. homes consume 30 percent of their water outdoors — watering lawns, thirsty plants and trees. By installing more innovative and efficient irrigation systems and drought tolerant plants, communities would see 25% savings on outdoor water use.

6. Increase public understanding: Communities should equip individuals with information about their own water use patterns, and educate the public about smart, simple water efficiency solutions.

7. Build smart for the future: Homes, businesses and neighborhoods should be designed to capture and reuse stormwater, and to use gray water and rainwater for non-potable purposes. Building codes and ordinances should be updated to support or require the use of the most water efficiency technologies. 

8. Return water to the river: To maintain healthy flows, a portion of water efficiency “savings” should be returned to the river to serve as a “savings account” for a not so rainy day.

9. Involve water users in decisions: New opportunities for significant water savings can be found when all the stakeholders are at the table. Involving water users can increase efficiency.

Scientists predict that global warming is bringing longer and more intense droughts to the Southeast U.S. That, along with increasing populations, will place unprecedented strain on the region’s water supplies. Hidden Reservoir is designed to help communities become more resilient in the face of these challenges. By adopting water efficiency, communities can help ensure that they have a clean, sustainable water supply and healthy rivers for years to come.

“The Southeast is sitting on an enormous and forgotten water supply, and it’s hiding in plain sight. There is a ‘hidden reservoir’ in our laundry rooms, kitchens and bathrooms,” said Wodder. “This is the guarantee of water efficiency. By improving how we use and manage water, we can tap a brand new source of supply.” 

“Clean water is the lifeblood of the Southeast’s economy, environment and quality of life. We have a responsibility to manage our water wisely for today’s communities and future generations. It’s time to make water efficiency our first source of water supply.” 


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.