Solving the Water Crisis Begins at Home

Hydro Right dual-flush converter fits standard toilet tanks. Photo: Courtesy RotoGreen

By now, the world water crisis shouldn’t be surprising news. Many of us already donate to clean water funds, well-building activities, and water-saving causes. But if we have leaky toilets, outdated plumbing, or wasteful faucet drips, we’re actually contributing to the problem we’re trying to solve.

The US Geological Survey estimates that leaking toilets can lose around 22 gallons per day. This translates into about 8,000 gallons of wasted water per year. To put that number into perspective, that’s enough water to fill a display tank at your local aquarium.

With so many stray drips and drops, it’s of little wonder that many American communities are experiencing water shortages. In 2009, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported a drought throughout numerous Southwest and Great Plains states resulting in five billion dollars in damages. By 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 36 states will experience water shortages.

If those numbers aren’t scary enough, these shortages are also reflected through spiking water rates across the nation. To combat these threats, plumbing companies like Roto-Rooter have instituted eco-friendly programs to help homes and businesses conserve water and money.

ROTOGreen offers water-saving designs for industrial plumbing. Photo: Courtesy ROTOGreen

ROTOGreen is an initiative promoting responsible water usage and energy conservation through retrofits and upgrades throughout the home. The official unveiling, announced on Earth Day, has already received a positive response from green enthusiasts and others looking for smart upgrades to outdated plumbing technology.

And sales have proven these services are in high demand.

Kit Cassingham, chief sustainability officer of Sage Blossom Consulting, opted for water-efficient fixtures when she built her new house. “For many years I’ve been a water conserver, but when we moved to the high desert region of Colorado, we felt the need to be even more conscious of our water consumption,” she says.

Thanks to some new technology, being water savvy no longer means foregoing flushes or shortening showers.

Roto-Rooter spokesperson Paul Abrams says, “There are several simple solutions to increasing water efficiency through basic upgrades. Oftentimes people assume that means they have to buy a new toilet or hot water heater, but there are other options that are as equally effective.”

“In addition, the water and energy savings provided by these upgrades typically pay for themselves within a few years,” Abrams adds.

These upgrades have also proven applicable beyond the home. Cassingham, whose consultancy works with the hospitality industry to develop environmental programs, says she urges those with commercial water use to adopt more water-efficient appliances and fixtures.

The Niagara low-flow shower head saves water and money. Photo: Courtesy ROTOGreen

Of course, new toilets aren’t the only opportunity for people to save a little green. Thousands of gallons can also be saved through dual-flush technology and replacement shower heads or faucets. As part of its ROTOGreen program, Roto-Rooter aims to install water-saving fixtures in 10,000 households by 2011, which will potentially save tens of millions of gallons of water.

To test the savings of these upgrades, Roto-Rooter has installed water-conserving fixtures in homes of various sizes in some of the country’s most expensive water markets and is monitoring the change in water bills on their website.

“What better way to exemplify the impact of water-saving fixtures than by demonstrating real savings?” Abrams said. “We’re here to prove that keeping dollars from going down the drain has never been easier.”

10 Tips to Save Water — and Money

  1. Check for slow leaks and drips in your bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and outdoor faucets. Slow drips have a way of becoming fast leaks over time. Pay special attention to bathrooms and outdoor faucets that don’t get regular use, as they’re easy to overlook.
  2. Replace leaky faucets, shower heads, and toilets with new, low-flow fixtures. Drips don’t go away on their own; the sooner you fix your leaky plumbing, the more water and money you’ll save.
  3. Leaky faucets don’t always have obvious drips. Watch for water collecting around the base of the faucet where it’s attached to the sink. This may indicate a leak in the seal around the knob or handle.
  4. In new construction, choose low-flow, water-saving fixtures, but ask your plumber to verify that you have sufficient water pressure for the fixtures you choose.
  5. In homes and industrial locations, install a dual-flush toilet or retrofit system that allows you to remove liquid wastes with less water and solid wastes with more water. Choose the design that is right for your building.
  6. In large toilet tanks common in older homes, insert a brick or a half-gallon jug filled with water into your tank to reduce the amount of water going down the drain.
  7. If the toilet doesn’t stop running after a flush, check in the back of the tank to see if it’s a simple problem, like the chain coming loose. If you can’t fix it yourself, hire a plumber or get a DIY friend to help you. A running toilet can quickly add many dollars to your monthly water bill — and waste up to 200 gallons of water per day, that’s 73,000 galls a year (enough to fill several in-ground swimming pools). 
  8. To check whether your toilet is going to stop running, lightly touch the lever after a few seconds. If you don’t feel resistance, the toilet isn’t filling up. If you do feel resistance, you can be confident the water will stop running when the tank is full.
  9. Turn off your outdoor hose whenever you finish watering. Don’t depend on a nozzle at the end of the hose to stop water from flowing.
  10. Take more showers than baths, because the average shower uses only about one-third as much water as a typical bath.

The Small Print

Roto-Rooter is a client of The Eisen Agency, Brinkman’s employer. Blue Planet Green Living has received no samples nor incentives of any kind for posting this story.

Allison Brinkman

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)