Accomplishing More With Less
Water efficiency accomplishes more with less by using the best available technology and using water in smarter and more innovative ways. Water efficiency is different from water conservation which, while also important, is generally more focused on changing behavior and habits like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.
Water efficiency isn’t about asking citizens to shower once a week or plant a cactus in the front yard. Water efficiency is about flushing high-efficiency toilets and growing your trees and flowers with rainwater or gray water instead of high quality drinking water. It is about sustaining a high quality of life. It is about using innovative and smart technology to use less water to accomplish the same work.
Water efficiency is simply the most cost-effective and immediate way to ensure safe, clean and available water for our families, neighbors and businesses.
Save water, save energy
It is important to note that saving water in turn conserves energy. The treating, transporting, and heating of water all take some form of either electricity or gas power, and those costs translate to rising rates on utility bills. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, heating the water in your home uses approximately 15 percent of household energy, and a third of the water we use is hot, so re-thinking the way we use (and waste) our water could account for significant savings on more than just water bills.
Communities and water efficiency
Increasingly, water-efficiency practices are being adopted by communities and businesses as they recognize that improvements in infrastructure can account for big economic savings. Here are four examples of water-efficient cities:
Starting in the 1980’s, Boston successfully secured its needed water supply by reducing consumption from the 1980 peak of 125.5 billion gallons to 70.9 billion gallons in 2009, a 43% reduction.
The city spent $40 million dollars, but avoided $500 million dollars in costs by choosing to reduce their demand instead of increasing supplies. This was done using simple techniques such as repairing leaks, requiring low-flow toilets in new construction, and retrofitting homes with efficient plumbing fixtures.
The city of Tucson has dramatically reduced residential water usage during the past 18 years; from a high of 121 gallons per capita per day in 1996, to only 86 in 2014. This is a reduction of 35 GPCD, or 28.9%, over 18 years.
The city of Tucson has been proactive in encouraging water conservation by offering a wide range of rebates and incentive programs to residential and commercial customers. Their mascot and spokesduck, Pete the Beak, has been encouraging children and adults to save water for decades.
Denver’s water use in 2014 was equal to that of 1973, when there were 350,000 fewer people. Denver residents use 82 GPCD for all indoor and outdoor purposes, utility data show, down from 104 GPCD in 2001. This was achieved through measures such as replacing thousands of toilets in Denver Public Schools, the ceaseless “Use Only What You Need” campaign, rebates on water- saving appliances, tiered water rates, and summer watering restrictions. In 2015, Denver Water leaders set a new target for 1.3 million customers: 30 gallons a day for indoor use.
Santa Barbara, California
In the wake of the California drought, the City of Santa Barbara has reduced their water consumption by 35.3% since 2013, far surpassing the conservation standard of 12% set by the State Water Resource Control Board.
Their approach has included multiple water rate increases, public outreach and education campaigns, increased leak detection, residential check-ups, and rebates for water-efficient plumbing. Additionally, they recently hosted a Water Conservation Summit, are actively celebrating ‘Water Heroes’ in the community, and even provide a webpage for anonymous water waste reporting.
Water efficiency in the Southeast: A “Hidden Reservoir”
The Southeast United States faces unprecedented challenges to its water supply. Growing populations and the impacts of climate change are putting new strains on communities and their rivers. Our local leaders are facing the pressing question of how to ensure a clean, reliable water supply for current and future generations.
Traditionally, building more dams and reservoirs was the first and only answer to water supply problems. But these 19th century approaches should not be the primary solutions for our new 21st century challenges. They don’t address the root problem — water is finite and we are not using the water we do have wisely.
Relying solely on building large new dams is not cost-effective and it won’t solve today’s water needs. Per gallon, dams cost up to 8500 times more than water efficiency investments. Dams are fixed in one place and hold a limited amount of water. Even when we do get sufficient rains to fill reservoirs, these giant pools can lose tremendous amounts of water through evaporation.
For these reasons, building new dams should be the absolute last alternative for solving our water supply needs. “Hidden Reservoir,” a report by American Rivers, makes the case that water efficiency is our best source of affordable water and must be the backbone of water supply planning. By implementing the nine water efficiency policies outlined in this report, communities across the Southeast can secure cost-effective and timely water supply. Read the report
American Rivers advocates at the national, state and local levels for water efficiency and low impact supply solutions that provide cheaper, faster, and more reliable water than costly and harmful new dams and other short-sighted water storage projects. And we work to protect the water flowing in rivers, so that it can continue to nourish our communities for years to come.
How you can make a difference at home
Fix leaks inside and outside of your house. A one-drop-per-second leak can add up to as much as 2,700 gallons of water wasted in a year.
Use rain or gray water to grow the plants in your yard, rather than using high-quality potable water.
Replace old equipment like toilets, faucets, dishwashers and washing machines with high-efficiency, Energy Star and WaterSense-labeled appliances. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists rebate programs by state available to help defray the cost of new appliances, and you can discover your potential savings here.