The drought is officially over. We can go back to our old ways…

The drought is over. 

That’s the word from Georgia’s top environmental officials. After years of water restrictions and conservation programs, water levels across the state appear to be getting back to normal.

The state climatologist says Georgia experienced the wettest spring season on record in 115 years.  In fact, Governor Sonny Perdue says heavy rainfall in recent months helped the entire state emerge from the worst drought categories, prompting restrictions on outdoor water use to be lifted for the first time since 2006. 

So, should we still conserve water? Absolutely.

Why should we conserve water?

 There are many good reasons to conserve water.

Water conservation can help meet future needs.

Water is a precious resource – our lives depend on it. In Georgia, the average consumption (residential, commercial and industrial, not agricultural) is 168 gallons per day, 10% higher than the national average of 153 gallons a day. An adult needs less than a gallon per day for drinking purposes, but 101 gallons per day are used in residential applications.

(Source: http://www.p2ad.org/files_pdf/cwmbs.pdf

Georgia’s population growth is among the most rapid in the nation. In the last decade, the state’s population has increased by more than 1.7 million. If current trends continue, Georgia’s population will reach 11.9 million in 2025. A doubling of demand for water over the next twenty years is highly probable. Given that drought-prone Georgia already uses a relatively high share of its land for residential purposes, future population growth will have a meaningful impact upon the supply of fresh water. As more and more faucets drain the aquifers, or underground reservoirs, urban sprawl paves over the land and short-circuits its absorption properties. Georgia’s fast-growing cities face water shortages by 2020 unless local utilities find new supplies.

Saving water will save you money.

Conserving water saves you money! Not only will your water bill go down, but as you heat less water, your gas or energy bill will also decline. If your whole community conserves, you will also pay less fees for water-related services. Water conserving communities will not need to pay as much to develop new supplies and expand or upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure.

 The City of Atlanta has approved a 12.5% rate increase effective July 1, 2009 and another 12% increase in 2010.  

Approved Water and Sewer Rates City of Atlanta

Water conservation helps preserve the environment.

Quite simply, water is the essential component of all life. It comprises 70% of the Earth’s surface and 75% of the human body. Of that 70% of surface water, only 1% is actually drinkable. Water is needed to keep the ecosystem in balance. Clouds need water to make rain. Plants need water to grow. Animals depend on plants for the oxygen they produce and the food they provide. When one element of the chain is compromised, the entire system is thrown out of whack. Roughly 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or hosting aquatic life. 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually.

 There are many obvious reasons for us to protect our water supply, but the most important point to remember is that water is absolutely essential to all living things. Educate yourself, dedicate yourself, and you can make a difference.

(Source: http://www.luminant.com/scholar/docs/EnvironmentWater.pdf)

A significant level of water conservation can be achieved without major changes in lifestyle. Simply watering landscapes properly and utilizing efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances in the home can reduce the per-capita water use by 25 percent.

What you should know about toilets

Toilets account for almost 30% of residential indoor water use in the United States.

Toilets are also a major source of wasted water due to leaks and inefficiency. In a home that was built prior to 1993 it is most likely that the toilet uses 3.5 gallons or more for every single flush (in Dekalb County alone, approx. 165,000 homes were built prior to 1993 – there are approx. 1 Mio. Homes in the Greater Atlanta area that still have old, inefficient toilets in use). Experts say that the minimum needed to meet the basic human needs of drinking, cooking and hygiene is five gallons of clean water per person per day. It’s far from enough to ensure health and well-being-just enough to get by. Do we really need to flush down that much each time we go “Number One”?

In the beginning of modern toilets there was the seven-gallon flushing porcelain lavatory. Then there was the low-flush toilet. And by the time you’d flushed several times the bowl was “clear” and you had flushed more water than you did with the faithful lavatory.

Then there was the new and improved low-flush toilet, which was better but still not what always got the job done. And finally, the High-Efficiency toilet arrived; you now have your choice of flushing as little as .8 gallons with dual flush toilets. The best part is that they really work!

What Are High-Efficiency Toilets?

Under federal law, toilets must not exceed 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). High-efficiency toilets (HETs) go beyond the standard and use less than 1.3 gpf. The WaterSense label will be used on HETs that are certified by independent laboratory testing to meet rigorous criteria for both performance and efficiency. Only HETs that complete the third-party certification process can earn the WaterSense label.

 Do High Efficiency Toilets Work?

Everyone is concerned about the performance of low-flow toilets. Do they clear the bowl and leave it clean? Do they stop up frequently? Unlike the first 1.6 gallon / flush toilets, WaterSense HETs combine high efficiency with high performance. Advances in toilet design permit WaterSense HETs to save water without loss of flushing power. In fact, many perform better than standard toilets in consumer testing. Want proof? Watch this amazing video of Eddie Wilcut, the Water Conservation Manager for the City of San Antonio, flushing a Russet potato down a Caroma toilet with the full flush (1.6 gallon) AND half flush (0.8 gallon), which is meant for liquid waste.

How Much Water and Money Do HETs Save?

High efficiency toilets save you money by reducing your water and wastewater costs. Over the course of a lifetime, an average person flushes the toilet nearly 140,000 times. If you install a WaterSense HET, you can save 4,000 gallons per year and your children can each save about a third of a million gallons during their lifetime. If a family of four replaces one 3.5 gpf toilet made between 1980 and 1994 with a WaterSense toilet, they can save $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet. If the toilet being replaced was made before 1980, it uses 5 gallons per flush so the savings will be much greater. If you’d like to calculate how much water you can save try the water savings calculator on www.ecotransitions.com.

With these savings, new high-efficiency toilets can pay for themselves in only a few years. Even better, many local utilities offer substantial rebates for replacing old toilets with HETs. Detailed information on the rebates available in Georgia can be found here Rebates in Georgia

What are Dual Flush toilets?

Dual flush toilets offer a patented dual flush technology consisting of a 0.8 Gal flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 Gal flush for solids. They can save up to 40% (approx. 4600 gallons) compared to today’s standard 1.6-gallon single flush toilets. On an average of 4/1 uses a day,  Dual Flush toilets have the lowest water consumption of all – 0.96 Gallons per flush. Caroma, an Australian manufacturer that invented the Dual Flush technology manufactures award winning toilets that are both user friendly and, with a full 3.5″ trap way, virtually blockage-free!  Wouldn’t that be nice to be able to finally kiss the plunger good bye? Beware of some products reducing the amount of water flushed to use with your existing toilet. Existing bowls are not designed to perform with reduced amounts of water, so the likelihood of clogging your toilet while you are trying to flush paper and solid waste increases drastically.

Select a WaterSense Labeled High-Efficiency Toilet!look for watersense label

Whether you are remodeling a bathroom, beginning construction of a new house, or just want to replace an old, leaky toilet, a WaterSense labeled HET is your best bet. Look for the WaterSense label on any toilet you buy. If every home in the United States replaced just one old toilet with a new HET, we would save almost one trillion (spelled with a T)

gallons of water per year, equal to more than two weeks of the water flowing over Niagara Falls!

Note that some manufacturers offer high-efficiency and ordinary models with very similar names, so be sure and look for the WaterSense label. A list of WaterSense labeled High-Efficiency Toilets can be found here List of WaterSense labeled HET’s published by the EPA.

Where can I find a HET?

To find WaterSense partners and resources in your area, please follow the link and click on your state below or choose from the list that follows. EPA – Where you live

For a watersavings calculator and more information on Dual Flush toilets please visit www.ecotransitions.com.

WaterSense Partners helped save 277 million gallons of water in 2007