While New England is an area traditionally rich in water, it is still important to conserve water. Even an area that normally has plenty of water can experience a drought, and conservation practices can help prepare for such an event. Conserving water also conserves energy – according to the US EPA: “American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year. For example, letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.”
Efficiency measures can easily reduce water use in a typical commercial or institutional building by over 30%. Waterless urinals, low-volume or dual-flush toilets, and low-flow showers and fixtures are all increasingly standard parts of modern buildings.
Greywater and Rainwater Use
Many of the uses for water in and around buildings do not require potable water, yet most building systems use potable water for all purposes. toilet flushing and irrigation are two prime opportunities for non-potable water use. Non-potable water comes from two main sources: rain water harvesting and greywater.
Rainwater can be collected from roofs, plazas, and paved areas and then be filtered in preparation for use. Rainwater with high levels of contaminants may damage building systems or plants, but pollutants can often be filtered out. Since rainwater is only available periodically, some storage capacity and/or backup systems would likely be needed.
Greywater refers to the reuse of water drained from baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks. Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products, and depending on the intended use, may require filtration or chemical treatment. The legality of using greywater varies by location. Unlike rainwater, greywater cannot be stored for later use.