New homes over the past decade have actually gotten thirstier, using even more water than the new homes of the prior generation. Considering the advancement in water-efficient household items like washing machines and showerheads, how can this be possible?
Surprisingly enough, the main culprit is the external irrigation systems used for landscaping.
“Builders can impact 30 percent of water usage, all inside the home”, said Robert Broad, director of purchasing for Pulte Homes. “Sixty percent to 70 percent of all home water usage is external. All these great plumbing features put in were being completely dwarfed by the demand for sprinkler systems.”
In the past, very few new homes came with sprinkler systems. Now, sprinkler systems are becoming commonplace in a new home package, just like appliances. The trouble is most people don’t use sprinklers properly and have a tendency to overwater, especially in times of prolonged dry periods.
WaterSmart homes like ones that Pulte Homes built in the desert communities combat this problem with landscape irrigation control units. These units can be programmed for different types of shrubbery, soil and model of sprinkler. Text or email alerts can be programmed to notify users of plumbing malfunctions via a water usage monitor.
Internally, the plumbing network can be re-aligned in and around the homes using cross-linked polyethylene so that hot water is delivered quicker or also use of “tank-less” on-demand systems. A myriad of other water-efficient appliances, such as high-efficiency toilets, faucets, and showerheads can also be installed.
A water-smart home can use half as much water as a new home of the preceding years, including those that were built just the year before.
So what’s in our future for more water-conservation in the building industry?
National code developers are starting to move in the direction of greener measures for commercial and residential buildings; WaterSense programs have mandated standards for showerheads and faucets; more efficient appliances such as toilets have become mainstream; and the International Code Council is moving in a green direction.
Whether consumers are choosing traditional turf or desert landscaping actually has a greater impact than what builders are doing inside the house. Some states advise moving in a “brown” direction. Turf front yards are banned in many desert locales, with recommendations for landscaping with native plants/xeriscaping.
Have an older home? Try monitoring your irrigation system usage and replacing water-guzzling appliances when possible. Rain water collection systems are a great backup and can be very cost-effective. There are many articles and blogs on installing water conservation ideas for the DIY person.
If anything this drought in Texas has taught us this season, never take rainfall for granted!