Save water, feel good
Droughts are growing more common and water bills are bound to increase, so start conserving now. Here are the 6 improvements with the best payoff.
As the climate warms and American cities and towns grow, many communities are finding that there’s not enough water to go around.
About 80% of water consumed in the U.S. is used by agriculture. But demand is increasing in cities and homes, putting new strain on supplies. The arid, fast-growing West is accustomed to cycles of drought; some regions of California have droughts every 10 or 15 years, for example.
Now, droughts are happening more frequently in the West, and water problems are also cropping up east of the Rockies. For example, fast-growing Atlanta was caught unprepared by a drought in 2007-2009. Boats were beached in marinas, the Georgia Institute of Technology had to spray paint its football field green, and homes and businesses were forced to make radical cuts in water use. Georgia, Florida and Alabama are in a long-running court fight over who gets to take how much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.
Get used to it, water experts say. “We will see a change in water rates, just as we will see fuel costs going up again,” predicts green building consultant Ann Edminster, with Design AVEnues in Pacifica, Calif.
Luckily, there’s good news:
- Homeowners and renters can do a lot to conserve and improve the big picture.
- Saving water at home makes you feel good twice: You save money on water bills while protecting the Earth.
- Conservation investments are attractive to cost- and environmentally conscious buyers, helping them stand out in a crowded market.
Making improvements prepares you for shortages or price increases down the road.
Rebates and incentives
Utility companies and governments at all levels offer rebates on high-efficiency appliances and fixtures. Search the federal government’s Energy Star site for rebates by ZIP code. Also, click on your state in the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy’s map to see state, local, federal and utility company incentives. Or just call your water company. Some utilities pay as much as $200 to entice residents to buy high-efficiency washing machines, for example.
City halls, too, are dangling carrots, and brandishing the occasional stick. A sampling:
- Prescott, Ariz., gives up to a $100 credit on water bills for having irrigation systems examined for efficiency by a certified auditor; up to $150 for installing an efficient toilet; $150 for installing drip irrigation; and up to $50 for repairing leaks. Get with the program or else: Neighbors can turn you in for using spray irrigation in the daytime between April 15 and Nov. 1.
- Houston helps upgrade or replace home septic systems.
- Raleigh, N.C., offers residents $100 for installing high-efficiency toilets.
- Apopka, Fla., credits utility bills up to $200 for irrigation improvements.
- Many cities have “cash for grass” programs, paying homeowners by the square foot to tear out lawn and replace it with low-water landscapes. Incentives range from 50 cents a square foot in the Mojave Desert to $1.50 per square foot in Las Vegas.
Four fixes with great payoff
Three of the four most effective home upgrades are cheap. All are simple and help to greatly reduce the average of 171 gallons a day each American uses, says Heather Cooley, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, an Oakland, Calif., think tank that studies water and environmental issues:
1. Toilets. Toilets suck down 27% of the water used inside homes. Those sold since 1992 use 1.6 gallons per flush or less, but older monsters push seven or eight gallons down the pipes with each use. “On average, we flush the toilet five times per day,” Cooley says. If possible, swap yours for a high-efficiency model (starting at around $100, uninstalled), using 1.28 gallons and save up to 10,000 gallons a year. Next best: an “ultralow-flush” toilet (check chain hardware warehouses for prices as low as $90), using 1.6 gallons per flush. If you can’t spring for a new toilet, save about a half-gallon per flush by displacing water in the tank: Fill a half-gallon plastic bottle with water — pebbles in the bottom will help weight it down — and, taking care not to interfere with the toilet’s working parts, place the bottle in the tank. Don’t try the old brick-in-the-tank trick: Bricks crumble into grit that stops up the working parts. (Look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label when shopping for water-conserving products.)
Bing: Search & decide
2. Aerators. Kitchen and bathroom faucets together use 16% of a home’s indoor water. You could spend $75 to $1,000 on a fabulous new efficient faucet — they use from 0.5 gallons per minute to 2.5 gpm (the federal standard). Consumer Reports tells more about these here. But there’s no need: You can get the same performance for $2 to $3 by adding a simple component — an aerator — to your faucet. Some water utilities give them away. Aerators bring flow down as low as 0.5 gpm while maintaining water pressure by mixing air into the water. To install, screw the aerator into the faucet end.
There are 3 popular house types best
loved by buyers at the present time - single family homes, town homes &
condos. The word 'house' is clear to everybody, while some customers as well as
real estate agents still have a vague idea of the terms 'townhouse' and
'condominium'. It is essential to differentiate the terms when searching for a
'A house', or 'a single family home', is a detached structure suitable for a typical family to live in. Both the house and the lot are in the owner's possession. There are no walls to be shared with neighbours &, thus, one may enjoy his or her privacy to the fullest. As 'a house' is in the owner's absolute possession, any refurbishment exterior of a house can be done.
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