LEED  Water efficiency

Water Efficiency

Caitlin Plaza

November 2009

POL 233

There has been much concern over water efficiency in recent years. Not only is water efficiency important due to the fact that we are using more water than is available, but using water inefficiently causes the release of greenhouse gasses. On October 5, 2009 the White House issued an Executive Order which set goals for energy, water efficiency, and economic performance. This is one of the many ways that the government is working to improve water efficiency.

The most effective way that homeowners would be able to save the earth’s water supply and be environmentally friendly would be to follow the LEED for homes point system. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. In the LEED for homes program, water efficiency is one of the eight main categories. There are three different credits that can be achieved in the water efficiency category. Those credits are labeled as water reuse, irrigation systems, and indoor water use. There is a maximum of 15 credit points available in the water efficiency category.

            The main ways that you can get points under the water reuse section are by having a rainwater harvesting system or a gray water re-use system. The irrigation system section allows for a few more options. In this section the home can have any of the following and still receive a point, central shut-off valve, sub-meter for the irrigation system, at least 50% of landscape planting beds have a drip irrigation system, spate zoning for turf and each type of bedding area, timer/controller that activates valve for each watering zone, pressure-regulating device to maintain optimal pressure and prevent misting, high-efficiency nozzles, valves in heads inspected, and moisture sensor controller or rain delay controller. Or the homeowner could have a third party inspection of the irrigation system or install the landscape designed by a licensed or certified professional that needs no irrigation. In order to meet the standards of indoor water use the home needs to consist of either high efficiency fixtures or very high efficiency fixtures. The specific fixtures that need these ratings are the lavatory faucet, the shower head, and the toilet.

            The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with WaterSense to help promote water efficiency. WaterSense is a company that is working towards providing water efficient appliances for homes, businesses, offices, etc. They along with the EPA have recognized that failing to use water efficiently can hurt our water supply in many forms. This consists of altering stream flows, causing saltwater to intrude into freshwater aquifers, increasing the amount of dirty runoff water that flows into natural water supplies, and creating the need to build additional dams. Another great concern that both the EPA and WaterSense have with the use of water is the water supply itself. Of the earth’s water supply only 3% of that water is fresh water. The other 97% is salt water. Around 70% of the freshwater is trapped in ice glaciers or underground which is inaccessible. This leaves less than 1% of fresh water available for usage.  A recent government survey showed at least 36 states are water shortages by 2013. If one out of every 100 American homes used appliances that were water efficient, we could save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year. By doing this Americans would be avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

            One of the 36 states that is expected to have water shortages is Illinois. The Bloomington-Normal area is currently seeking new ways to obtain water. The water is currently being acquired from Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake. These two lakes are losing water due to sedimentation. Bloomington is looking into obtaining water from underground aquifers. The aquifer, which is called Mahomet, is in Mclean and Tazewell Counties. There are currently many other counties that are dependent on this exact aquifer.

            The central concern over the water supply in the Bloomington-Normal area is what are the available options in the future. It is said that by 2050 the water supply will be down by 40 to 70  percent. Since there is such a concern over the water supply the Regional Water Supply Planning Committee has put together a regional plan consisting of recommendation for water conservation. Within this plan there are many key recommendations that are very eco-friendly and water efficient. This plan realizes the necessity for water efficiency.

            Not only are there environmental benefits to using WaterSense or EPA approved appliances, but there are also financial benefits. The average household spends as much as $500 a year on its water and sewer bill. By making a few adjustments towards more water efficiency, one could save about $170 a year. If every American household used water-efficient appliances, the country could save around 3 trillion gallons of water and about $18 billion dollars a year.

            There are many different products that can contain the WaterSense label. This includes high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency faucets, showerheads, and more. Many of the products that are certified by WaterSense are affordable for the homeowner. In the case of high-efficiency toilets, the average toilet will cost anywhere from $100-$1000, toilets that could potentially have the WaterSense label are only around $200. As for performance, WaterSense not only takes into account high-efficiency but also high-performance. So when looking to buy products that are water efficient there is no need to worry about performance.  

            Home owners now have many different ways that they can promote water-efficiency. One of the most basics is to fix any leaks that are around the house. More than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from American homes every year. Homeowners can also purchase water efficient products that bare the WaterSense label. By doing these things homeowners will save gallons of water, money, and the environment.