Editor’s note: The following information is gleaned from a series of videos covering the 2011 Delta Faucet Water-Efficiency Summit held November10-11 in Los Angeles.
When it comes to controlling costs in operating a home, right after energy one of the top expenditures is water. This is not only an issue for homeowners; it’s also an issue for cities and other communities that operate systems to deliver that water. Therefore more homes that become “net-zero” in their water usage, the better for the homeowners and the community at large.
Net-zero water use is one of International Living Future Institute’s main focal points and their research director, Kate Spataro, spoke on that very subject at the 2011 Delta Water Efficiency Summit held in Los Angeles in November. According to Spataro net-zero water use is obtainable but would require a lot of changes to homes, infrastructure, and, more importantly the way we all think about how we use water in our daily lives.
One of the many morsels of the food for thought Spataro offered was the fact that even though the water used to flush toilets is the biggest water user in any home, it is required to be potable, or fit for human consumption. ILFI suggests that such standards for what is essentially “waste water” aren’t entirely necessary; that water can be recycled greywater, which is water that has been used elsewhere on the property (showers, laundry, etc) after it has been purified onsite.
During her presentation, Spataro showed a variety of examples of buildings that adhered to the net-zero water usage standard including private homes, a school, and a housing development but she noted that the obstacles are numerous. “Because a lot of these systems are a far cry from our traditional practices for design and operation of our buildings, there are a number of barriers that exist,” she explained, adding that the chief area that needs to be addressed is financial.
Other barriers to the net-zero water goal are technology, behavior, and the various policies in place by myriad communities. However, she noted that the technology is available thanks to companies like Delta Faucets and others who understand the importance of water conservation and the dire situation facing virtually every state in the country in terms of fresh water supply.
Spataro also wryly noted that changing behaviors may prove to be the biggest challenge and nowhere was that more evident than during her talk when she showed examples of composting toilets. While the toilets themselves looked entirely acceptable, likely the process of “emptying a bucket” every two to three days into an onsite composting area is what didn’t appeal to many in attendance. Obviously, achieving net-zero water use on a grand scale will not just involve changing policies, infrastructure, and codes, but changing the hearts and minds of every affected citizen.
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