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  • Molly Jones

Guiding Principle 3: Protect and Conserve Water

Guiding Principle 3: Protect and Conserve Water


This is a weekly series for the next 6 weeks reviewing the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions.


Guiding principle number three is to protect and conserve water. This means that Federal Buildings should be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained in ways that reduce the amount of water used and maximize the use of reclaimed or recycled water where possible.


There are four sub-principles: indoor water use, water metering, outdoor water use, and alternative water.


3.1 Indoor Water Use


Minimize the amount of potable water used for indoor, non-consumption activities such as water closets, flush valves, lavatories, hand washing sinks, and light industrial processes. Any regular plumbing fixtures need to be labeled.


It’s also important to eliminate single-pass cooling on the projects. Typically, it’s a very highly efficient water closet and shower head fixture. It’s common practice to run water calculations very early in a project, so you have an idea of the anticipated water use on a project.

Depending on the project type, new construction, or modernization, you’ll want to ensure you are designing it to be as efficient as possible. Any fixtures used more than once a day fall under this guiding principle's purview.




3.2 Water Metering


3.2 is your whole building's water meter. You’ll be required to document that you’ve provided the water meter equipped with leak detection for the project and that you’re monitoring the water during the project's occupancy.



3.3 Outdoor Water Use


There are many best practices for outdoor water use. You’ll want to have highly water-efficient landscaping or zero scaping. For irrigation strategy on a Federal project, you’ll want to reduce its reliance on outdoor and potable water. The best thing to do is not have an irrigation system on your project and focus on zero-scaping methods to establish plants.


You’ll be looking for native, non-invasive, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants. You may put in a temporary system to get plants established. Once mature, the plants shouldn’t require an ongoing irrigation system. The irrigation system should then be removed from the project.


If you have an irrigation system, you must ensure you’re reducing its reliance and potable water by at least 50%. You could look at harvested rainwater or other opportunities that provide water for your project.


There are three options, the third being the IgCC option.





You may also refer to a resource from the DOE-FEMP’s Water Efficiency in Federal Buildings and Campuses resources. This resource will help you design an outdoor water efficiency system that will reduce the reliance on potable water to less than 50%.


Option 2 is if you are installing and landscaping using zero-scaping techniques or not providing irrigation.


3.4 Alternative Water

Alternative water is rainwater harvesting or reclaimed water to flush toilets or irrigate the landscape. It’s important to consider where this is practical and permitted under law and regulations.


At many federal properties, the federal government has previewed and has rights over this. But in some cases, there is a dovetail between the federal and local governments. Make sure you ask questions and bring in the right people to support your options.




For more information on this principle or the guidelines for modernization projects, refer to the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions.

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