Silent leaks add up
Santa Fe is among the most water-conservation-minded communities in the United States. We have the lowest gallonsper-capita-per-day usage of any major city in New Mexico and we are viewed as a leader in water conservation in the Southwest.
Due to our history of water scarcity and periodic droughts, conserving water is part of our culture. It has also taken civic leadership mixed in with regulations, pricing, education, and incentives to achieve our leadership position.
Local regulations have been put in place over the past decades to set a minimum-water-efficiency standard for new homes and hopefully soon for multi-family dwellings. Education and outreach continually remind us of the need to conserve water. Incentives help motivate existing homeowners to buy water-efficient appliances and save more water. Higher pricing, especially at the second tier of our water rates, stress to us every month that ourwater is precious and that we should monitor our use.
Another aspect of our improved water-conservation numbers is the application of new technology. A great example of this is the new toilets that use as little as 0.8 gallons to flush, compared to the old standard toilets that used 3.5 gallons. These new devices work as well as the older toilets and save substantial water with each and every flush.
It’s not just toilets that have improved. The same is true for dishwashers, clothes washers, aerators, and most other water-using appliances. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through its WaterSense program, has driven the adoption of these new technologies over the last decade.
Although it may be hard to see us move to lower than 0.8 gallons per flush, there are other technology areas that we have not even begun to implement. For example, today we accept leaks as part of our built environment. Many studies have shown that a large percentage of homes have silent leaks that account for up to 7 percent of our overall water use!
New leak-detection products like Uponor’s Phyn Plus can change this. Phyn Plus detects leaks and notifies the homeowner of a leak immediately. In catastrophic situations, it will shut off the water and notify you and your plumber immediately. Implementing these types of technologies will change our acceptance of silent leaks. A silent leak doesn’t cost a ton of money but a large water leak costs an average of $9,000, per the insurance industry. In a recent conversation, a local plumber said he had two projects caused by water leaks. The repairs cost the homeowners $45,000 and $65,000.
These new water-leak devices will help us save water and money over the coming decades. Just this one device in every home within the City of Santa Fe could potentially reduce our overall water use by up to five gallons per person per day.
Water is a precious and a finite resource in the Southwest. Conserving water is up to each and everyone of us. Regulations, incentives and outreach are all important, but so is incorporating the adoption of leading water saving technologies that work makes good economic and environmental sense in our part of the world.
Doug Pushard, founder of the website www.HarvestH2o.com, has designed and installed residential rainwater systems for over a decade. He is a member of the Santa FeWater Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPAWaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.