3 tips for cutting water use and ensuring a safe water supply

3 tips for cutting water use and ensuring a safe water supply

Water shortages are becoming a reality throughout the world, and that includes the United States. As reported in the National Journal, the demand for fresh water in the United States will exceed the supply by 2030, according to a 2012 State Department report. The Environmental Protection Agency already has noted that at least 36 states are faced with local or regional water shortages.

Here are some of the best ways to reduce water use and ensure a supply of clean water for your home.

Safe drinking water 

You may say there are over 60,000 reasons to consider a water filtration system for your home. That’s the number of chemicals used in the United States today.

And what is more alarming is the fact that the 35-year-old Safe Drinking Water Act is far from current with its testing of these chemicals: only 91 are on its list of contaminants. Are we to assume that the other 59,909 are safe in the event they enter our drinking water? Hardly.

But the concern over contaminants is not solely at the water source. There are actually three sources of water contaminants: the water source, treatment facility and delivery system. Each has the potential to introduce your family to a host of unhealthy pollutants and impurities.

Whether you have a well of your own or are connected to a municipal water treatment facility there is concern. Municipal water treatment plants treat the water by injecting chlorine gas to disinfect the water. The idea is to shock the water so it will be safe upon reaching your faucet. But contaminants found in homes as a result of impurities introduced to the water through the delivery system now require added measures.

Many treatment facilities now add another disinfectant to the process: ammonia. But when ammonia interacts with chlorine it produces chloramine. To date, chloramine has not been fully researched for impact on humans, such as cancer or other diseases. Symptoms of excessive chloramine exposure, according to the International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSC), include coughing, shortness of breath, red eyes and, if ingested, blue skin.

Government scientists generally agree that many chemicals commonly found in the US drinking water pose a serious threat, even in low dosages. And the President’s Cancer Panel recommends home filtration. So why aren’t the federal regulations on our water supplies updated? Good question.

A home water testing kits can help you determine the condition of your water. There are over-the-counter retail options but for the best results use a comprehensive kit from a water filter company such as Aquasana. From the test results you will be able to select from a wide range of water filtration options, including whole water filtration systems that can include water softening, to simple point-of-use options.

It is important for homeowners to understand that water filters are not all the same, and that no one filter removes all of the home’s drinking water contaminants. Some filters are made to remove chlorine, while others may be designed to remove heavy metals. It's important to have your water tested to know what you want a filter to do for your family.

High quality filters such as Aquasana’s remove the potentially harmful things while leaving the minerals nature intended for our health. Many other options, such as reverse osmosis systems, remove all of the minerals as well as some impurities.

Two critical standards are not met by many over-the-counter filtration systems so be sure to read labels carefully. But Aquasana passes the NSF #42 chlorine taste and odor standard as well as NSF #53 requiring the removal of lead, mercury and other contaminants. These are important standards that need to be met for your family’s safety.

Studies have shown that 75 percent of homes have water contaminants. There are thousands of untested chemicals in our environment. Homeowners can begin with initial local research. Your municipal water treatment facility is required to have an annual consumer report on their water quality. Check it out to see what challenges you face in ensuring water quality for your home and family.

Read more about clean water for your home.

Comfort and convenience of hot water now!

One of the most common residential plumbing system problems is the wait for hot water. Each year the average home wastes thousand of gallons of water down the drain, waiting for hot water to reach the kitchen or bathroom faucets. Running water also wastes lots of energy used to heat and transport that water. It's a bad deal all around.

But there's a way to stop all that waste. And make the morning shower routine a pleasure.

By installing an ACT, Inc. D'MAND Kontrol® hot water distribution system in your home, you can greatly reduce the wait time for hot water and the water wasted down the drain.

Depending on your home plumbing layout, the ACT, Inc. D'MAND Kontrol® hot water distribution system will either be installed under the furthest fixture or at the end of the dedicated return line.

One of the most attractive features of the ACT, Inc. D'MAND Kontrol® hot water distribution system, besides having hot water on demand and the water and energy savings, is its easy residential plumbing installation. The D'MAND Kontrol® hot water distribution system easily retrofits beneath the fixture furthest from the water heater and reduces the wait for hot water and water wasted down the drain. If you need a residential plumbing solution for your wait for hot water, then the ACT, Inc. D'MAND Kontrol® hot water distribution system is for you!

Wonder if it works? Ask some residents of Sierra Vista, Ariz., who participated in an experiment to save water in the drought stricken region using demand-controlled pumps.

The Cochise Water Project (TCWP) is a non-profit 501c3 serving the Sierra Vista sub watershed with a sole purpose of reducing water drawn from its aquifer.

During 2013, via a grant rebate program, TCWP installed more than 130-demand-controlled pumps (DCP) as one of its wasted-water reduction programs throughout the sub watershed.

Dave Grieshop, managing partner of Reality LLC, a consultant on the project, worked with homeowners who had installed a DCP to record how much water and time they spent waiting for hot water.

Grieshop wanted to understand how much water and time homeowners wasted at the kitchen sink and at a shower or sink in the master bathroom when using their DCP and not using their DCP.

The homeowners were more than willing to help because earlier TCWP survey results regarding DCPs showed everyone was delighted with their installations. Wasted water was defined as "the water down the drain waiting for the water to get hot enough so one could shower."

Eleven sets of data were collected. Then a daily hot water demand scenario was constructed. Each homeowner was assumed to make three hot water demands at the kitchen sink and one hot water demand in the master bathroom. These four daily demands resulted in a weighed average demand for each home in terms of wasted water and wasted time with and without the DCP.

This was done for two reasons. "First, four daily hot water demands is substantially below what the literature indicates," Greishop said. "Secondly, it negated the number of home occupants. The data was behavioral, not scientific; it was real data."

Grieshop noted that one homeowner collected six sets of data so they could get a sense of the average cups and seconds involved as well as the standard deviation for the cups and time data.

"Surprisingly, the standard deviation was quite 'tight,' in other words, there was not an unreasonable amount of variability," Grieshop said. "Also, two homeowners voluntarily gave me 3 sets of data; again, the variability was surprisingly 'tight.'"

The homeowners who provided the data all lived in single-story homes ranging in age from almost 100 years old to a less than 2-year-old home, which was LEED Platinum certified. Home sizes ranged from 2150 to almost 4000 square feet.

The results from the homes were startling. About 2,800 gallons of water were wasted without the DCP versus 230 gallons while using the device. The data showed that without using the DCP, the water usage among the 11 homes was highly variable.

Each home wasted more than 26 hours per year waiting for hot water without the DCP compared to slightly more than two hours using the DCP.

"Homeowners wasted more than a day per year waiting for hot water without a DCP," Grieshop said. "No wonder the local homeowners consistently said it was the convenience they liked most about the DCP in their homes."

Read more about water-saving devices

Water saving tips for your toilet

Older toilets could use up to 5 gallons a flush, and a more modern fixture might use 3.5 gpf. Since 1994, the federal government has mandated that manufacturers sell only toilets that meet a 1.6 gpf standard. But even those newer toilets waste water because they call on the same amount of water to flush away liquid and solid waste.

Fluidmaster’s Duo Flush ™ converter kit takes into account that about 80 percent of the flushes only need to dispose of liquid waste. So instead of flushing 1.6 gpf every flush, only 1.1 gallons or less are used for the majority of flushes. In this way, the potential water conservation is greater than even buying a whole new commode.

Fight leaky toilets

Most people know that a leaky toilet wastes water. But most people don’t know that a leaky toilet uses more water  than a leaky faucet.

In just minutes, you can find out if your toilet is wasting thousands of gallons of water due to an undiscovered water leak. Here's how:

  1. Remove the tank lid, then flush. 
  2. After the flapper or tank ball drops and the tank refills, add several drops of dark food coloring (or a Fluidmaster Leak Detector Tablet). 
  3. Wait at least 20 minutes. 
  4. If any trace of color appears in the toilet bowl, there is a leak - most likely at the flush valve or flapper/tank ball. 

Another way to check for leaks is to shut off the water at the wall before going to bed at night. Leave water in the tank and mark its level with a pencil. The next morning, if the level of water has gone down, you have a leak in the tank.

The EPA notes that one of the most common reasons that a toilet leaks is  an old or worn out flapper, or valve seal. The flapper is the circular rubber flap that lifts up when you pull on the flush handle. The handle pulls a chain  connected to the flapper. Then the flapper rises and opens the valve between the tank and the bowl. The water rushes through the passages in the toilet, flushing waste out of the  bowl and down the drain. When you release the handle, the flapper floats back down and seals the valve, allowing the toilet tank to refill with fresh water. The flapper seal is a critical component to making your toilet perform well.

Flappers are inexpensive parts, usually rubber that can build up minerals and decay over time. The life of flapper depends in part on the quality of the water in your home, and the material that goes into making the flapper. A flapper may decay so much that it lets enough water through to force the tank to refill. You may hear the water in the toilet run briefly, even when no one has used it recently. That random refill, known as ghost or phantom flushing, is a sign of a significant leak.

You may find yourself jiggling the handle to get a good seal on the flapper and stop the water flow.

The good news is, replacing a toilet flapper is an easy do-it-yourself job that doesn’t require any tools. It can save you a considerable amount of money as well. When you’re shopping for a new flapper there are a few things to keep in mind. One is to pay attention to the color. Flappers from Fluidmaster are color coded to show their resistance to chlorine in the water. Fluidmaster flappers that are red are resistant to chlorine and hard water, while black flappers are better suited for well water that is not treated with chlorine.

Fluidmaster’s 502 Universal PerforMAX High Performance Toilet Flapper With Microban® has built-in Microban® protection which fights flapper breakdown due to bacteria. Toilet flappers made with Microban technology are more resistant to premature deterioration than other flappers.

For high-efficiency toilets, the  PerforMAX® fill valve offers a fill rate  twice as fast as standard valves, so it can  keep up with the demand for water. And the adjustability means you can avoid excessive or inadequate bowl fill level with any type of toilet. The 2x greater fill refill rate makes PerforMAX® the most powerful fill valve. Moreover, the

double flange design of the PerforMAX® fill valve provides for an “ultra quiet fill” making this fill valve the quietest fill valve on the market.

The 502 Universal PerforMAX High Performance Toilet Flapper is a truly universal replacement that works well on most newer toilets having a 2-inch flush valve with a 1.28 or 1.6 gallons per flush design, as well as older toilets having 3.5 gallons or higher

flush volumes. Most other “Universal” flappers in the marketplace only cover  half this range. Each type of toilet has unique specifications to optimize its performance. The 502 adjustment mechanism allows the user to meet those specifications to ensure optimal performance. This not only optimizes performance but also ensures that the minimal amount of water is used with each flush, thus helping reduce wasteful water consumption.

Read more about water-saving devices

Topics: Plumbing & Fixtures, Wastewater Treatment, Water Filtration & Water Quality, Water Saving Devices, WaterSense

Companies: ACT D'MAND Systems, Fluidmaster

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