What is Green Building? - Water

The three key water efficient ideas we used were  efficient appliances low flow fixtures, and drought tolerant landscaping.  Another idea is capture and use rainwater, which although reduces water use significantly, isn't as cost effective.  To understand the principles behind these click here.

Efficient Appliances

Energy-star dishwashers and washing machines can reduce your water use significantly - anywhere from 40 to 75% compared to a conventional machine (more...).  There is an issue of higher first cost, but pretty good machines can be had at reasonable prices.  The best information is on www.energystar.gov  or www.cee1.org , but you'll have to wade thru a lot of data, and neither site includes cost.  Since new models come out every year, the situation changes quite a bit.

Initially washers and dishwasher were only rated for their energy use, but now most rating include a factor for water use.  The most energy efficient models tend to use less water, but within them there is a wide range.  Frontloading (or H-axis) washers tend to use less water than top loaders, and also tend to cost more.  The most water efficient dishwashers tend to be the higher priced models which come with other benefits also--quieter operation being one that attracts most people.

For all appliances, you need to look carefully when comparing models: just because a manufacturer makes a very efficient unit doesn't mean that all they're units are efficient. 

Low flow fixtures

Local building codes mostly require 1.6gal/flush toilets and low flow showerheads, which are typically the only significant water users beside appliances and landscape.

Other than modifying water use habits, the only thing that can make a significant difference is to buy a toilet that actually does it's job in one flush (you can now also purchase dual flush toilets, but they're still a cutting edge product).  To see a list of the best performing toilets, see www.savingwater.org.

We bought showers that have flow rate adjustments in addition to temperature, because we rarely use the shower at it's rated 2.2GPM.  

If you've got a water efficient washing machine and dishwasher, the only other way to save water is by lifestyle changes.  Alternatively, you can build a rainwater tank

Drought tolerant landscaping

While landscape watering may not be your biggest use of water over the course of the year, it often causes a dramatic spike in the amount of water used during the summer.  The best way to save water is to replaces some or all of your lawn with perennials, grasses and shrubbery that can survive drought, or at least use less water.  In addition, by using good soil and protective mulch you give your plants a better chance of surviving in low water conditions  (For details, click here...).

For an example click here.

Rainwater Catchment

After you've reduced your water use by as much as you can, the next logical step is to catch rainwater and use it for watering your yard and flushing toilets (see example here...).  This isn't nearly as cost effective as conservation, and given how cheap city water is, has a pretty long payback (our system was at least $8,000).  Having your own rainwater system also involve added yearly maintenance.

We built our largely as an experiment, in hope of paving the way toward more cost effective solutions in the future.