WaterSense: Making every drop count

Water is perhaps our most valuable natural resource. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that while approximately 70 percent of earth’s surface is covered by water, only one percent of it is available for human consumption.

December 16, 2012

Water is perhaps our most valuable natural resource. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that while approximately 70 percent of earth’s surface is covered by water, only one percent of it is available for human consumption.

Furthermore, this limited resource is increasingly stretched as populations grow and demand multiplies. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while the U.S. population doubled from 1950 to 2000, the demand for water tripled. The EPA further estimates that the average family of four now uses 400 gallons of water per day — 100 gallons per person – 70 percent of which is used indoors.

The EPA predicts this level of consumption will lead to severe water shortages throughout our country as early as next year, with at least 36 states subject to local, regional or statewide water shortages. With some water treatment facilities already at capacity, water conservation remains an important issue for governmental entities and residents alike.

Fortunately, there are programs and products designed to make reducing day-to-day water usage easier. 

The WaterSense program, for instance, a partnership program of the EPA, aims to protect the future of the U.S. water supply by providing people with easy and identifiable ways to conserve water. The WaterSense-label, when placed on plumbing products such as faucets, showerheads and toilets, indicates that a product performs about 20 percent more efficiently than standard products in its category.

Water efficiency needs are further addressed by many leading plumbing manufacturers that participate in the WaterSense program. These companies place a high priority on developing products that address today’s water conservation concerns without compromising the user experience or the durability and life span of their products. Frequently these plumbing manufacturers employ ethnographic research, in-home interviews, focus groups, and retail shadowing to direct future product advancements and ensure consumer needs are being met.

One company in particular now offers shower technology that uniquely shapes and affects the water it delivers to create larger water droplets that retain heat longer for a more drenching shower experience. This technology on a shower flowing at a rate of 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) allows homeowners to reduce their water usage without compromising their shower experience. 

Similarly, newer electronic faucets use responsive capacitance sensors to detect contact or proximity, potentially helping to save water between tasks. One plumbing manufacturer offers an electronic faucet with touch-based operation. A simple tap to the faucet handle or spout will turn the water on and off. Another technology turns the entire faucet into a sensor. The water flow can be controlled when the technology senses a presence within its 4-inch sensing field. Both technologies have an automatic shut-off feature, reducing water waste.

For kitchen faucets, one manufacturer has introduced a multi-function wand, which enables homeowners to toggle easily between spray and stream functionality; it also employs water-efficient default rate of 1.5 gallons per minute, which saves up to 32 percent more water in the kitchen compared to the industry standard. When more water is needed, the user can easily toggle to a higher flow.

Many manufacturers have also put years of research and development into preventing leaks. To help prevent the future occurrence of leaks, which can lead to as much as 10 million gallons of water waste in the average American household each year , one manufacturer offers a water delivery system that combines super hard seals with flexible one-piece waterways utilizing PEX-C tubing. These faucets are built to last up to 10 times longer than the industry standard. 

Renovating kitchens and bathrooms with the integration of water efficient and WaterSense–labeled products is one of the easiest and most effective ways to promote smart water usage. PR

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Building Science resources provided by EEBA and its National Education Partners. For further information regarding a Houses That Work session coming to a city near you or to register for the Excellence in Building Conference, please visit eeba.org.

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