Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So How Important is Water Conservation?

So what are the facts about water use in the United States, and why is it so important to find ways to conserve water?
I'm working on a project right now where I need to refamiliarize myself with the LEED standards for landscape. According to my latest LEED manual, Americans withdraw approximately 340 billion gallons of fresh water per day from rivers, streams and reservoirs. Wow, that's a lot of toilet flushes! In addition to surface sources, water is drawn from aquifers. In some parts of the US, the drain on aquifers have drawn water levels 100 feet lower in the ground. A very small amount of water is actually returned to the natural sources, creating a deficit every year of 3,700 billion gallons. Yes, that's 3,700 billion. As water tables get lower, finding water becomes more difficult, for humans and local forests, farms, and watersheds.
Landscaping accounts for 30% of water consumed in the US, (with some places like California using as much as 80% for their yards.)
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated that water-conserving plumbing fixtures be installed to reduce water use in residential and commercial buildings. The amount of water used in agriculture has also decreased since the 50's, when water conservation policies began to be developed.
According to LEED, further steps to reduce water demands can save 30% or more each year.
Recycled water can be used for landscape irrigation, flushing toilets, custodial purposes and building systems. Capturing rainwater from the roof can also be used for these purposes.
Savings can reach thousands per year, resulting in almost immediate payback for water conservation infrastructure. As the cost of water increases (it already has gasoline beat) the savings return will also increase.
Don't know about LEED but want to know more? Check out their website!
American Rainwater Catchment Systems
Greywater Systems, Compost Toilets, Rain Collection
The Irrigation Association

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