Editor’s note: The following information is gleaned from a series of videos covering the 2011 Delta Faucet Water-Efficiency Summit held November 10-11 in Los Angeles, http://www.residentialwaterefficiency.com/.

During Session 4 of the 2011 Delta Water-Efficiency Summit, two experts discussed codes and regulation, especially the lack of a cohesive water conservation plan on a national, state, and local level. Katie Spataro, research director at the International Living Future Institute, talked about several obstacles to achieving water efficiency — and beyond that, net zero. Many of the hurdles involve regulation at federal, state, and local levels and agencies that have conflicting goals. Spataro offered several ways to counteract the obstacles including:

  • Inter-agency collaboration

  • Policies that support water efficiency

  • Clearly defined standards for low and net-zero water practices/technologies

  • Financial structures and incentives to support best practices in water efficiency

  • Codes that drive innovation

Doug Bennett, conservation manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, says that water-efficiency programs should address user behavior. He described one example where a few small towns outside Las Vegas that had private water regulation failed to collect enough water to maintain the supply. The government eventually mandated maintenance to prevent health issues in the community. “We need systems and products that are so reliable that people almost never have to deal with them and the trade contractors know how to work on them,” Bennett says.

Standards are also necessary so that all the technologies will work together. Although he loves the idea of net-zero, Bennett says that agencies need to be cautious about complicated technologies that won’t be maintained. “Look at what is already affordable — capitalize on existing technology," he says. "I’d rather have 100 homes using 15% less water with reliable technologies versus one super-home any day.”

Bennett cited a study in Perth, Australia, where gray water systems were installed in a group of houses. Instead of lowering the amount of potable water used by the households, the study found that the owners used more water. They changed their behavior, thinking that if they were already saving water with a gray water system, they could splurge on longer showers or watering their plants and washing their cars more often. —Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.

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