Water Reduction Strategies: Know Your Terminology
On May 6, 2014, the New York Times reported that climate change is no longer something that may happen in the future but, according to many scientists, is something that is happening now here in the US.
As to how climate change may impact water, the report paints a rather grim picture. While there may be flooding in some areas, much more than we have noted before, those areas that typically have water shortage will see these shortages grow even more severe. “In the Southwest, the water shortages seen to date are likely to just a foretaste of things to come. Severe and sustained drought will stress water sources forcing increasing competition among farmers, energy producers, urban dwellers, plant and wildlife for our most precious resource,” according to the article
There are many ways we can – and must – address this challenge but the first and most obvious one is very simple: we must start reducing water consumption.
But in order to begin reducing water consumption, building owners/managers must first become familiar with some of the terms used to discuss water usage and shortages. For example, many owners/managers might be surprised to learn that when discussing water reduction strategies, industry experts rarely use the term water conservation. While this terminology is in fact accurate when addressing a short-term drought, the water issues we are and will likely be grappling with are actually long-term problems. For these types of situations, the proper term is water efficiency. Water efficiency typically refers to the planned use of water in a manner that prevents waste, overuse, or misuse. The goal of water efficiency is to “do more with less” without sacrificing comfort or performance.
Other key terms often used when discussing water efficiency include:
Water audits: Water audits are designed to determine exactly where water is being used in a property. All water using fixtures and mechanicals are analyzed. Potential water-saving solutions often materialize quickly during this process. These can be simple fixes such as repairing leaks or more complex upgrades, such as the installation of devices and fixtures that reduce water consumption over the long term
Xeriscaping: Water used for landscaping purposes can amount to 20 percent or more of a facility’s overall water consumption. Xeriscaping refers to the use of native vegetation, which typically allows landscaping to thrive with minimal additional water significantly reducing water usage. It also involves reducing the overall amount of vegetation planted and ensuring that water-efficient irrigation systems, such as low-flow sprinkler heads, are installed. Implementing these tactics can not only save water, but also reduce related water and landscaping maintenance costs.
ULF: About twenty years ago, manufacturers selling restroom fixtures in the United States were required to ensure that their toilets used no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush; urinals were restricted to no more than 1 gallon per flush. Products that maintain compliance with these laws are referred to as ultra-low flush (ULF) restroom fixtures. While these products had a rocky introduction, recent surveys say user satisfaction for ULF toilets is now over 80 percent. As to ULF urinals, there are different systems available, and their effectiveness and customer satisfaction levels vary. One reason for this variance is the installation of ULF urinals designed for moderate traffic amounts in locations that actually service high volumes of traffic.
Waterless urinals: Waterless urinals use a combination of trap with a liquid barrier sealant chemical trap and a seal to keep sewer odors from escaping into the indoor environment. These fixtures require no water or flush valves to operate. According to Laguna Pacific Energy, a facility development company based in the U.S. state of California, “Waterless urinals have gained widespread acceptance in many areas of the world; have no flush handles or moving parts; and require no water. They do utilize a trap containing liquid that separates the urine from the indoor environment that requires periodic replacement.”
Recycled/reclaimed/reused water: Recycled or reclaimed water refers to the reuse of treated wastewater for agricultural and landscape irrigation purposes, industrial processes, toilet flushing, or replenishing groundwater basins (referred to specifically as a “groundwater recharge”). Reused water, on the other hand, is thoroughly treated wastewater that can be used for drinking purposes.
The Human Factor
While building managers must educate themselves regarding the concepts described above, perhaps the most important term when it comes to water efficiency is “the human factor.” In order to reduce water consumption in a facility, building users must buy into the program. Typically, this is achieved through ongoing information and education campaigns. When it comes to making significant progress in reducing water consumption, the human factor is critical to obtaining results.
A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt is founder and CEO of Waterless Co. Inc, Vista, CA, makers of waterless urinals and other restroom products. He founded the company in 1991 with the goal to establish a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water conservation in mind. He may be reached at Klaus@waterless.com.
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