Water efficiency became part of the national conversation 25 years ago with the passage of the Energy Policy Act. The policy was designed to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and improve air quality by focusing on alternative fuels, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. National standards for water efficiency are now finally established for the first time in U.S. history.
As a result, appliance and plumbing fixture manufacturers began creating washing machines, toilets, faucets and shower heads to reduce the amount of water wasted by households.
The Water Research Foundation’s 2016 review shows a 22% drop in indoor water usage since 1999. We’ve made improvements in water usage rates, so why do we need a new approach to water home efficiency?
1. Climate Change is Requiring More Outdoor Water Use
Warmer temperatures place greater pressure on water systems to meet the demand for outdoor use. Demand has accelerated since the U.S. has been in a national scale drought period since 1998. Outdoor water usage represents 30% of the 400 gallons of water used daily by the average American household. During summer months, however, outdoor use, particularly in the Southwest, can reach as high as 80% of daily water used.
2. Energy and Food Production is Drawing Water Away from Residential Use
Water usage by power plants is significant, representing almost half of freshwater used nationally. Although efficiency systems are in place, power plants face increased demand for water to meet the energy needs of a growing U.S. population.
This growing population also means increased food production. The amount of water needed for food irrigation ranks second after energy production. In parts of the central U.S., Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, irrigation has doubled since 2002.
3. Water Costs are Increasing (but Water Is Still Undervalued)
As communities invest in repairs and upgrades to the infrastructures delivering water, residents are facing 4-10% annual increases in water bills. A recent study by Michigan State estimates one-third of U.S. households may not be able to afford water by 2020.
Whereas it’s true that water costs are increasing, it's also true that it remains the cheapest household expense for most American households ($40 per month, on average).
If it's true that most water managers expect water shortages (and it is), and that price is the intersection between supply and demand (basic economics!), can't it be argued that the price of water is too low?
Food for thought: We pay more for our cell phone bills (a national average of $179 per month) than we do for access to clean water and sanitary sewer - even in our driest regions.
4. Improving Home Water Efficiency
It's obvious that homes being built today are not as water and energy efficient as they will ever be, but it's also obvious that faucets and shower heads are about as efficient as they will ever be. On-site recycling could easily be the next big leap for water efficiency in the home.
With 40 out of 50 state water managers expecting water shortages in the next ten years, it's very clear that new approaches are needed for water efficiency. Systems using grey water, recycled from washing people and clothes, and reusing it for toilets and landscaping present a very viable option for a new generation of water efficiency solutions.
Nexus eWater systems are available for existing and new homes, offering consumers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to recover and reuse water. Water management can now happen at home with a system designed to meet plumbing code requirements and the national standards for water reuse.
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