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  • Writer's pictureMolly Jones

Guiding Principle #3: Protect and Conserve Water

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

The idea of protecting and conserving water can be divided up into four categories — indoor water use, water metering, outdoor water use, and alternative water. Let’s look at each in turn.

Indoor Water Use The goal is to minimize the amount of potable water used indoors for non-consumption activities. This includes:

● Water closets

● Flush valves for water closets

● Lavatories

● Handwashing sinks

● Light industrial processes

To minimize water use, opt for high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and keep an eye out for the Watersense label. Look for the 1.1 GPF label on high-efficiency toilets and avoid single-pass cooling on your projects.

Our common practice is to run the water calculations early on in every project to get an idea of the anticipated water use. Design both new constructions and modernizations to be as efficient as possible by installing Watersense fixtures. Keep in mind that many fixtures will be used more than once per day and take a look at the average monthly use.

The other option is to stick to the IGCC requirements for modernization projects. Remember, you must demonstrate that the Watersense equipment you’re installing represents a 20% reduction compared to a baseline building.

To get your baseline code minimum case, use a temp tool called the Water Evaluation Data Tool. Once you know your baseline, you can choose the products and plumbing fixtures for your project accordingly.

Water Metering

Water metering, similar to energy metering, monitors the whole building. It is imperative to include leak detection and make sure to document this addition to your project. Also, monitor the meter because you are managing the water use while you are occupying the project.

Outdoor Water Use

Always follow best practices for outdoor water use. Design the landscaping to be extremely water-efficient. Use xeriscape landscaping techniques where possible to reduce the need for irrigation. The best-case scenario is to design a landscape that doesn’t require irrigation at all.

But what about the tender plants just after they’ve been installed?

One method is to install a temporary system to get the landscaping started. Pick native, noninvasive species that are tolerant to droughts and require little maintenance. Once the plants have been established, the irrigation system can be eliminated.

In some cases, it is impossible to avoid an irrigation system altogether. However, you can reduce the system’s dependence on potable water by collecting rainwater and taking advantage of other opportunities to provide water. Aim for at least a 50% reduction.

You can get resources from the Department of Energy1 to help with ideas of how to meet this 50% reduction goal.

Alternative Water

Alternative water options allow you to harvest rainwater or use reclaimed water for tasks such as flushing the toilet and irrigating the landscape. Always be aware of the practicality of these methods as well as if they are permitted under the area’s law and regulations.

At federal properties, the federal government has previewed the situation and will have most rights over that. But sometimes the federal government and the local government dovetail on this issue. Make sure you’re asking about this and bringing in the right people to have the conversation.

You have two options here. The first is to implement the alternative water sources into your project where permitted. The second is to look at cost effective methods and use them according to the IGCC definition of alternative water sources.



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