Water-saving technologies battle drought conditions


Low-flow toilets and other technology innovations can help save water in every home, and each step can make a difference.

According to recent projections from the Energy Information Agency and USA Today, by 2025 Americans will see their water bills double and potentially triple in major metro areas. This threat to the wallets of homeowners across the country is adding to speculation that pressure to the U.S. infrastructure, already desperate for solutions to a water shortage in California, is headed toward a significant issue in water access. 

Water conservation can be accomplished in most any building, residential and commercial. Here are some water-saving tips:

Low-flow toilets

At the 2016 International Builders' Show, Trey Cutler, business development representative with Niagara Conservation, previewed the Stealth line of ultra high efficiency toilets.

The Stealth ultra-high-efficiency toilet (UHET), which is EPA Water Sense certified, and the first toilet with the ability to achieve a powerful, quiet flush using just 0.8 gallons of water.

Activated by simply pressing the flush push button, Stealth clears all waste in the toilet bowl eliminating the need for double flushing or dual flush systems. The technologically advanced Stealth’s water and utility bill savings go a step beyond standard water-saving toilets, using 37 percent less water per flush than a standard 1.28 gallon high-efficiency toilet (HET). Compared to the average use of older 3.5 gallon per flush (GPF) toilets, Stealth can save up to 15,600 gallons of water per year.

The patented hydraulic and water-saving technology behind Stealth involves a remarkable combination of air and water working in unison. At the conclusion of each flush, as water fills the tank and inner chamber, air is forced down through a transfer tube and into the trapway. As a result, this pressurizes the trapway and creates a larger water surface in the bowl, helping to deliver a cleaner and more reliable flush. When the toilet is flushed again, the vacating flush water creates a vacuum that depressurizes the trapway. This creates powerful siphonic suction, as the trapway is quickly and completely filled with waste water from the bowl. The ceramic trapway is fully-glazed, which also helps ensure the bowl is cleared with each flush. And, because Stealth maintains pressure in the trapway instead of the tank, it produces a remarkably quiet flush without residual noise.

There's also an even stingier dual flush option. Equipped with two flush options—0.5 gallons per flush (GPF) half and 0.95 GPF full — this ultra-high-efficiency toilet (UHET) meets EPA WaterSense® criteria and uses an average of 0.65 GPF. This makes it possible to save more than 15,600 gallons of water annually compared to the older 3.5 GPF toilets.

Demand control recirculation pumps

One of the most common ways people waste water is waiting for hot water in the kitchen or bathroom. 

Regardless of whether a home has a tank or tankless water heater, the water in the lines between the water heater and the fixture loses heat. Depending on how long those lines are, it may take many seconds for hot water to run through the pipes to reach the fixtures.

All that water goes down the drain, including the energy used to move it, treat it and heat it, as well as the energy used to process it as sewage.

Hot water recirculation pumps reduce the wait for hot water to next to nothing. That's why home builders in drought-stricken states are turning to recirculation pumps to help meet strict new standards.

At the 2015 Greenbuild Expo, Larry Acker, CEO of Advanced Conservation Technology (ACT), Inc. D'MAND®, talked about his company's product that save water and energy, and deliver hot water right when you want it.

Watch the video here.

Acker said people use the ACT, Inc. D'MAND Kontrols® instant hot water distribution system in their homes because:

  • Saves 8,000 - 12,000 gallons of water per year
  • Eliminates 8,000 - 12,000 gallons of sewage usage per year
  • Saves $200 - $400 (or more) in water and energy costs per year
  • Eliminates 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year
  • Costs less than $1 in electricity per year

Read more about the water-energy nexus and the role that demand control pumps can play in reducing water use.

Storm water management

The d-Rain Joint from Bio-Microbics provides a cost-effective method for creating permeable, pervious surfaces.

It was developed to satisfy a permeable, pervious driveway requirement while addressing LEED and NAHB greenbuilding guidelines. It has a moderate installation cost and a very low life cycle cost compared to other permeable, pervious surface options. Its simple and unique design allows the use of traditional concrete, asphalt, or paver materials to construct a highly performing, permeable, pervious surface system and provide groundwater recharge opportunities.

Watch the video here.

Advantages of the d-Rain Joint

  • Cost-effective - Adds nominal costs to standard pour-in-place surfaces.
  • Easy installation - Installs using standard practices and equipment.
  • Low-maintenance - Simply clean or replace filter.
  • Immediate storage capacity - With aggregate type/depth tailored for local needs.
  • Strength and durability - Safe for heavy vehicles and snow removal.
  • Treats stormwater onsite - Environmentally sound option to contain runoff onsite.

Wastewater treatment

For residential and commercial building projects looking to save water, a wastewater treatment system delivers water clean enough to be discharged into waterways or used for other purposes.

Bio-Microbics BioBarrier Membrane BioReactor (MBR) is a wastewater treatment system that uses a membrane process of microfiltration/ultrafiltration with a suspended growth bioreactor. The company says is is the first system to achieve NSF/ANSI 40 (onsite wastewater), 245 (nitrogen reduction), and 350 (water reuse) certification. It's in use in a wide variety of applications for residential and larger commercial buildings

When used with Bio-Microbics' SaniTEE Effluent Screening Device, the BioBarrier MBR system can produce effluent of high quality enough to be discharged to coastal, surface or brackish waterways or to be reclaimed for urban irrigation.  Other advantages of MBRs over conventional processes include small footprint, easy retrofit and upgrade of old wastewater treatment plants. Certification to the NSF/ANSI 350 satisfies requirements for leading green building programs, including USGBC LEED Water Efficiency credit for graywater reuse systems. Products certified to the NSF/ANSI 350, also could satisfy gray water use strategies under the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Certification program as an innovative practice.

Watch the video here.

Water Filtration

The bottled water trend costs people money, and doesn't deliver better water. Instead, high quality filters can deliver healthy water at a fraction of the cost of bottled water.

At the 2016 International Builders' Show, Howard Esbin, president of 

Instead, a simple, high quality undercounter water filter provides a cost-effective – and effective – alternative.

The Essential Max Flow in-line filter system from Environmental Water Systems is one system that's easy to install and can replace costly bottled water.

 "This is the product that can eliminate bottled water and all the cheap gimmicks," Esbin said.

Watch the video here.

The Essential Max Flow filter can be installed under a sink inline with the existing cold water line. It does not require a separate faucet so there's no need to drill a hole in a sink or countertop. Esbin noted it's an easy installation for renters who may not have permission to drill a hole in the countertop, and for owners of condos, apartments, townhomes and other multifamily dwellings.

"Anyone can install this filter and get filtered water for an entire year not only to drink but to cook with as well by just turning on their kitchen faucet without any flow restriction," Esbin said.

Compared to what the average home spends on bottled water in a year, the Essential Max Flow saves about 75 percent of the cost and delivers up to 10,000 gallons of filtered water over the course of a year, depending on the quality of water.


Net Zero Water

The latest development in high performance homes is a net zero energy home, one that produces as much water as it uses.

Is it possible to do the same thing with water – a net zero water home?

There's a home that's going to try.

Watch the video here.

Whirlpool Corporation and Kohler Co. are researching ways to achieve net-zero water at the ReNEWW House, a retrofitted research home located near Purdue University campus.

Through their products, Whirlpool Corporation, a major home appliance manufacturer, and Kohler Co., a leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products, make up nearly all of the indoor water usage in the residential home. 

The  ReNEWW House (Retrofit Net zero Energy Water Waste) Initiative is partnership with Whirlpool Corp., Purdue University and Kohler Co., and others to develop a world‐class research laboratory and sustainable living showcase retrofitted from an 87‐year‐old home near Purdue’s campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

After the home’s inaugural year focused on net‐zero energy, Whirlpool sustainability experts installed water systems that will filter and reuse water throughout the home, eliminating its reliance on the city’s water supply.

Read more about the ReNEWW House project.


Heat Pump Water Heaters

According to ENERGY STAR, heat pumps, also known as hybrid water heaters are some of the most energy efficient water heaters on the market today.

A heat pump water heater is a tank-type appliance that uses a heat pump to warm the water, rather than a gas flame or electric resistance heater.

According to ENERGY STAR, heat pump water heaters extract heat from the air, compress it and deliver heat to the water, sending out cool air as exhaust. Because the heat pump water heater uses warm ambient air to do most of the heating, it is an energy efficient way to heat water, just as an air source heat pump is an efficient way to heat a home.

Think of a heat pump like a refrigerator working in reverse. While a refrigerator removes heat from an enclosed box and expels that heat to the surrounding air, a heat pump water heater takes the heat from surrounding air and transfers it to water in an enclosed tank.

Because a heat pump water heater needs to have air around it, it's a good fit for basements and garages, but not for a tight closet. It will also cool the air around it, so you will want it in an unconditioned space like a garage where it will not affect your living area temperature.

The AeroTherm™ Series Heat Pump Water Heater from Bradford White is highly efficient providing year-round energy and money savings. It offers advanced technology and low cost operation.

The AeroTherm™ features four operating modes - Heat Pump Mode, Hybrid Mode, Electric Mode, and Vacation Mode.

During periods of high hot water demand, heat pump water heaters switch to standard electric resistance heat (hence they are often referred to as “hybrid” water heaters) automatically.

Read more about water saving devices.



Topics: Appliances, Bathroom, Going Green, Kitchen, Plumbing & Fixtures, Sinks & Toilets, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Washers & Dryers, Wastewater Treatment, Water Filtration & Water Quality, Water Heaters, Water Saving Devices, WaterSense

Companies: Bradford White Water Heaters, Kohler, Whirlpool Corporation, Environmental Water Systems, Bio-Microbics, ACT D'MAND Systems, Niagara Conservation

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