Launch Slideshow

Illustration on How to Create Water Efficiencies in the Home

Illustration on How to Create Water Efficiencies in the Home

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    A) WATER METER
    Subsurface with grade-level display; wireless with leak detection and pressure regulator

    B) RAINWATER COLLECTION
    Cistern, filter, irrigation control; overflow and filtered matter to storm drain

    C) STORMWATER DRAINAGE
    Collect rainwater from roof/gutter system for irrigation; also contains runoff on site versus storm drain

    D) HOT-WATER RECIRCULATION
    Motion detector– or manual button–activated recirculation (all bathrooms)

    E) BATH FAUCETS
    32% potential water savings per EPA WaterSense standard; also a greywater source

    F) SHOWER
    20% potential water savings with EPA WaterSense-qualified low-flow showerheads; also a greywater source

    G) WATER MONITOR
    Real-time use via PC per water meter; also leak detection and irrigation control

    H) TOILET
    20% potential water savings with 1.28-gpf models vs. 1.6-gpf, per EPA WaterSense standard; greywater supply eliminates use of potable water

    I) GREYWATER SYSTEM
    Greywater capture, filtering, and storage (tank); supplies household toilets (purple pipe)

    J) HOT-WATER RECIRCULATION PUMP
    Pump and closed-loop piping to water heater reduces lag time (water waste); activated by motion detector or manual button

    K) CENTRALIZED PLUMBING
    Shorter pipe runs (40 feet or less) from the water heater to reduce lag time

    L) PLUMBING SUPPLY
    Manifold/logic setup (blue and red pipe)

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    M) DISHWASHER
    30% water savings with Energy Star–qualified models

    N) CLOTHES WASHER
    33% potential water savings with Energy Star–qualified models; also a potential greywater source

    O) LEAKS (OUTDOOR AND INDOOR)
    Average 14% of annual householdM) water use (7,900 gallons per year)

    P) PLANTS
    Native and drought-tolerant; grouped by similar irrigation needs; watered by drip irrigation

    Q) TURF AREAS
    No more than 40% of lot; native and drought-tolerant; watered by rotating spray heads

    R) IRRIGATION SYSTEM
    Smart controls; weather-based and/or soil sensor

    S) PERMEABLE AREAS
    Permeable pavers on sand bed reduce stormwater runoff from the site

    T) POOL COVER
    Pool/spa cover to reduce evaporation

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In addition to using plants that are indigenous to a given location and thus able to survive (and perhaps thrive) on only what nature provides, water-wise landscape plans feature less turf area within the total footprint, plants grouped by their water needs, and irrigation water delivered mostly via ground-level drippers or subsoil systems that put water at the base of the plants instead of on their foliage.

Meanwhile, what little turf area remains—less than 40% of the overall parcel, per the IGCC and WaterSense standards—is irrigated with smaller, rotating, low-flow spray heads that mitigate overspray onto hardscape areas; less turf also reduces energy and fossil fuel emissions from mowing, a chore that consumes an EPA-estimated 800 million gallons of gas a year and accounts for 5% of our nation’s air pollution.

But the key is control. The most sophisticated irrigation systems feature moisture-sensing timers that not only activate at the right time of day (early morning), but also only when necessary. If it rains the night before, they’re smart enough to shut off until the ground is sufficiently dry; like a structured wiring control hub, they also enable additional modules and reconfigurations to serve new plans and plants.

That level of technology takes money, however; while most low-flow indoor plumbing fixtures are priced competitively with their wasteful counterparts, high-tech irrigation components and control systems often come at a premium and may not be readily available—hurdles that often put the burden back on the homeowner to watchdog the watering schedule.

“The WaterSense standard can be quite different than the norm,” says Jim Szasz of J&R Custom Landscaping in Kissimmee, Fla., who pays four times as much for rotating spray heads, among other premiums, to achieve qualified landscaping and irrigation systems for KB Home’s Central Florida division—a region among those most threatened by freshwater scarcity. “But the water savings is about 80%.” (See “Ground Rules” page 37, for more on landscaping and irrigation.)

WATER INDEPENDENCE

As with any green building practice, there are indoor and outdoor water-efficiency options on the fringe of marketability and affordability that can shed a homeowner’s dependence on a municipal water supply—and the rising rates and use restrictions that come with it.

Greywater Reuse. Greywater is generally defined as water collected from bath faucets, showers, bathtubs, and occasionally clothes washers that is then mechanically filtered and reused to refill the home’s toilets. It is carried by a dedicated, purple-hued, sanitary pipe in a closed loop that keeps it from mixing with potable city water or the sewer lines.