Originally published in Interiors & Sources


Simple Water Retrofits with Deep Savings

Strategies to improve water efficiency


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    Credit: EPA

Look for WaterSense Certification
A cousin to ENERGY STAR and the only commercial certification for water efficiency, WaterSense is a product label for fixtures that reduce water consumption. Certified products are at least 20% more efficient than their traditional counterparts, which can yield significant savings and fast paybacks.

The label can be found on over 3,600 models of faucets, accessories like aerators, toilets, urinals, showerheads, and pre-rinse spray valves. It’s an easy way to cut through manufacturer claims and focus on products that have been third-party tested for performance.

The specification also applies to weather-based irrigation controllers, such as stand-alone, add-on, and plug-in devices that use current weather data and evapotranspiration as a basis for scheduling irrigation.

Since 2006, WaterSense has saved 487 billion gallons of water and over $8.9 billion in water and energy bills, reports the EPA. Reductions of 64.7 billion kWh of electricity and 24 million metric tons of carbon dioxide were also achieved.

To ensure confidence in the label, the EPA evaluates a number of factors related to environment impacts and performance. These include:

  • Potential for significant water savings on a national level
  • Equal or superior product performance compared to conventional models
  • Ability to measure and verify water savings and performance
  • Cost effectiveness

It should also be noted that products that rely on proprietary technology are not eligible for the label. All models must also comply with existing ASME and NSF/ANSI standards.

The Trickle Down Effect
When you improve your water efficiency, your building operations will gain more than just water savings – you’ll also lower greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and sewer fees.

“Because hot water takes energy to produce, there’s a direct correlation between your water and energy bills,” Sowards explains. “Less energy needed also results in fewer carbon emissions emitted by your facility.”

The benefits of reducing your water demands also extends to your community. Water purification is an energy-intensive process, using anywhere from 0.25-3 kWh per 1,000 gallons to achieve potable standards. And as water infrastructure continues to age, the rising maintenance and treatment costs are passed on directly to customers.

“Any time you lower your water consumption, you also reduce the amount of water that has to be treated and transported to your facility, as well as the volume carried away by the sewer system,” says Sowards.

Just like energy efficiency, make sure saving water becomes a mindset – don’t stop with one upgrade and call it a day. Your building is flush with opportunities to save water.

You can also go beyond the basics and seek out overlooked strategies, such as drought-tolerant or native landscaping, dishwasher and garbage disposal replacement, pool covers, leak monitoring, and permeable pavement.

When sustainability was in its infancy, advocates knew that getting a person to switch to a better light bulb could be a catalyst for greater energy efficiency. Water is no different – what will changing one restroom fixture do for your facility?


Jennie Morton is senior editor of BUILDINGS.


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