In the last few decades there’s been a lot of emphasis on saving energy. For example, furnaces have had their minimum efficiency level updated in 2009 and again in 2012. In terms of water conservation, however, there hasn’t been as much regulation.
These days, however, the push is on to save more water than ever, without compromising the comfort you get from a nice hot shower.
Why are Canadians so Concerned About Water Usage?
Here are a few Canadian water usage facts:
- Less than 3% of the water that comes out of our taps is used for drinking. The rest is bathing, brushing teeth, washing dishes – or it just goes down the drain.
- The average household uses 250 Litres of water per day (as of 2011). While staggering, the good news is that the number seems to be slowly going down over time.
- Canadians pay less for their water than almost any other developed country. One study showed that we paid $0.34/1000 L, with Aussies paying the most at $1.47/1000 L.
- In 1994 17% of municipalities were reporting water shortages.
- 14 – 30% of municipal water is lost due to pipeline leaks.
It looks like both consumers and municipalities are pressing for change, however. Young first-time home buyers are expecting green features in their homes. Home builders are finding that meeting the LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) program standards is a great way to sell houses. The number of home builders asking manufacturers for water-saving plumbing fixtures has almost doubled in the past 15 years.
Municipalities are also struggling with out of date sewage treatment systems. The new Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations state that cities must treat sewage before it is released into a river or the ocean. It was estimated that about 25% of Canadian municipalities would need to upgrade their treatment facilities, and they were given until 2020-2040 to do so (depending on the level of harmful material being released).
The latest National Plumbing codes for 2015 provide the following restrictions on plumbing installed in new construction:
- Shower heads can only allow up 7.6 LPM/2 GPM of water flow.
- Bathroom faucets can only permit 5.7 LPM (1.5 GPM).
This will mean we match the WaterSense program in the United States. New toilets in Calgary are limited to 6 litres per flush. Older toilets are still allowed to flush 13 litres across the country except in select municipalities. Calgary is offering its own rebates to encourage us to get rid of our old water waters.
The New Fixtures: Invisible Water Savings
While people want to save water, they still want to feel like they’re getting a similar experience as with their old, water wasting fixtures. This has spurred manufacturers to use better design to close the gap. Most plumbing fixture companies mix air with the water to give people a similar volume with shower heads and faucets. Some pressurize the water so that it comes out with the right force. If you’re planning to retrofit a shower head, you just need to ensure that the scald-prevention valve will still work.
The challenge seems to be with kitchen faucets, where people notice the difference in the time it takes to fill a pot of water. Some manufacturers like Delta have solved the problem with a dual-flow faucet that allows you to switch between more or less flow. If you need a lot of water, you can get it, but you’ll still be saving water if you’re cleaning a pot.
On most manufacturer sites, you can shop for faucets by a water-saving category.
What Else Can You Do?
Aside from following our water saving tips, one of the most important things you can do is to be careful what you put down the drain or use in your garden. For example, 2,4-D, found in many household herbicides, can contaminate 10 million litres of drinking water. One drop of oil can contaminate 25 litres of drinking water.
With a combination of smart habits and a few select fixture upgrades, you can do a lot to conserve water. The extra benefit is that you’ll save a lot on your water bill at the same time!