The United States continues to deal with water scarcity and shortages across the country, affecting homeowners and builders. Sustainable building practices have predominantly been focused on energy efficiency to reduce household carbon footprints and financial burdens, however, with the ongoing drought in the US and the increased demand for housing, the need for water-efficient homes is necessary for the future of the industry.
As city populations increase, builders, developers, and politicians are faced with the significant challenge of supplying millions of people with potable water. Dry regions such as the West and Southwest parts of the US are struggling as more people migrate to already overpopulated cities with further depleting water sources. Builders are having trouble finding water reliable areas to build which in turn adds to the increased housing demand.
State and federal governments in these areas are strategizing how to distribute and protect major water sources, such as the Colorado River, which is currently at an all-time low due to a combination of a historic drought and overuse of water resources. Due to the current water levels of the Colorado River, the city of Scottsdale cut off the water supply to Rio Verde Foothills, leaving hundreds of homes without a reliable source of water. Local and state governments will continue to make water usage cuts and increase water prices affecting where homes can be built.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), residential water use accounts for more than half of publicly supplied water in the United States. The average household uses about 300 gallons of water per day. With the ongoing drought across the United States, water shortages, as well as prices, have only increased.
- Toilet: 24%
- Toilets, especially older toilets, use the most amount of water in an average household. Look to install toilets that use less than 1.6 gallons per flush and a toilet that has a dual flush.
- Shower: 20%
- Shower heads installed before the 1980s have higher rates of water flow, releasing as much as 8 gallons per minute. Whereas low volume shower heads use as little as 2.5 gallons per minute which could save an average household up to 13,000 gallons a year.
- Faucet: 19%
- Low-volume faucets use aeration and flow restrictors that are high performing and use less water. Switching to a low-flow faucet can reduce your sink water by 30%.
- Washing Machine: 17%
- Conventional washing machines can use up to 51 gallons of water per wash. High-efficiency machines can use as little as 15 gallons per wash.
- Water Leakage: 12%
- The average household’s leakage can account for 10,000 gallons of wastewater per year. Being proactive with leaks can save money and water as well as prevent water damage.
- Other: 8%
- Homeowners and builders can work together to increase individual autonomy and resiliency through investing in technology and systems that conserve water.
- Install low-flow plumbing fixtures
- This would include the installation of water-conserving plumbing fixtures such as faucet aerators, high-efficiency toilets, and low-flow toilets. These water-conserving fixtures save homeowners money and water.
- Regulate water pressure
- Water pressure should be around 65-80 psi, anything higher could result in pipe bursts.
- Insulate piping
- Proper pipe insulation reduces waiting time for hot water, which would reduce energy consumption by controlling heat loss and would conserve water.
- Install rain sensors or move to xeriscape - Eliminating irrigation
- If a property has an irrigation system, installing rain sensors can reduce the waste of water. The sensors will detect rain turning the system off to prevent unnecessary watering, but once it stops raining, the irrigation system will resume. Xeriscaping is the process of landscaping that eliminates irrigation and can reduce water use by 50 to 75 percent.
EEBA Ecomedes Sustainable Products Database is a comprehensive source for top-rated brands and sustainability certifications that you need for residential construction. Easily search by product category, brand, certifications and ecolabels, or greenest products to streamline how your teams source and specify. Once products are selected, easily review all product data and compare competitors. You can also add products to a project and start to calculate impact and evaluate how those selected products help you achieve your project's preferred rating system. Click here to explore different options for water-efficient technology.
The Federal Energy Management Program is another resource to better understand strategies on how to design and implement net zero water buildings. This program can help builders “reserve natural water resources, help improve water infrastructure, and secure water to meet mission-critical needs” by minimizing total water consumption, maximizing alternative water sources, minimizing wastewater discharge from the building, and returning water to the original water source.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also providing resources for builders and other professionals to learn about the newest features that help make a home more water efficient following Water Sense. Here you will find multiple guides for reaching efficient hot water distribution and a water budget tool and landscape solutions.
Water scarcity is a complex and intertwined issue. No individual or single industry will be able to tackle this problem alone, therefore it is important for local, state, and federal governments to work collaboratively with building professionals to build a system in which water-efficient homes are expected.
To continue learning about innovative ways to build water and energy-efficient homes, join us at the EEBA High Performance Home Builder Summit Oct. 10-12, 2023, in Salt Lake City Utah to hear Will Sarni, founder and CEO of water strategy consultancy, Water Foundry, Erik Amyot, CEO and co-founder of Thrijv, specializing in modular homes and technologies, and countless other building professionals speak.
Click here to register today!
1. “How We Use Water.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, May 2022, http://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water#:~:text=Water%20in%20Daily%20Life,-In%20the%20US&text=The%20average%20American%20family%20uses,in%20more%20water%2Dintensive%20landscapes.
2. “Start Saving.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, Sept. 2022, https://www.epa.gov/watersense/start-saving.
3. WSadmin. “Water Saving Tips for Commercial Buildings - 6 Ways to Streamline Water Conservation in Commercial Buildings.” WaterSignal, 30 Sept. 2022, http://www.watersignal.com/6-ways-streamline-water-conservation-commercial-buildings/.
4. “EEBA Ecomedes Sustainable Products Database.” EEBA, https://www.eeba.org/ecomedes.
5. “Net Zero Water Building Strategies.” Energy.gov, http://www.energy.gov/eere/femp/net-zero-water-building-strategies.
6. “Tools and Resources.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/watersense/tools-and-resources.
7. “Water Sense.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/watersense.