water efficient

Terps Leave Tinier Water Footprints

By Madeleine Raley

The University of Maryland (UMD) is one of the largest consumers of freshwater in the state of Maryland, but it’s making big steps in water conservation across campus. Despite the addition of a new dorm in 2011, which added 640 beds and over 180 bathrooms to campus, water consumption levels have remained relatively steady at about a half a billion gallons annually since 2009. This is thanks to mass implementation of new water saving devices such as low-flow toilets, showers, faucets and moisture sensors on irrigation fields.

Although I’ve been a student at UMD for the past three years, it wasn’t until I came to intern for EPA’s Office of Water this semester that I truly began to appreciate the innovative ways UMD conserves water. During my internship, I learned about WaterSense, a partnership program started by EPA’s Office of Water, which offers people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services. Three water efficient products in the program are low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads. According to EPA, one WaterSense low flow showerhead will save 2,900 gallons of water and $70 a year. To earn the WaterSense label, a showerhead needs to be under a 2.00/gallon per minute flow.

Residential facilities at UMD says that every single shower on campus (1,236 to be exact) has a 1.5/gallon per minute flow. They even have an entire residence hall that utilizes showers with 1.25/gallon per minute flow. The campus also boasts 1,370 toilets equipped with low-flow flush valves, and 1,370 sinks equipped with low flow aerators. To illustrate how effective this is, let’s consider the case of Washington Hall. In 2011-2012 Washington Hall used an average of 65,750 gallons of water annually. However, after the installation of low-flow products, the building used an average of 34,250 gallons of water annually in 2013-2014, saving over 30,000 gallons a year.

When organizations buy WaterSense products, they empower the individual to make a difference without even realizing it, simply by using the WaterSense products offered. Recruiting larger organizations and companies – or even universities — could be an effective solution to curb the immense amount of water wasted by toilets, faucets and showerheads, like at the University of Maryland.

About the author: Madeleine Raley is a Spring Intern for the Office of Water Communications Team. She is a senior Government and Politics Major and Sustainability Minor at the University of Maryland and is expecting to graduate in May.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Summer Tips: Saving Water Around the Home

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

While we often call Earth the “water planet” because 70% of its surface is covered by water, less than 1% of that precious resource is available for human use. Given the lower than average rainfall in the US and many places around the globe this summer, many of us are looking at ways to save water.

Did you know that the average family of four in the United States uses about 400 gallons of water a day as part of their daily routine? About 70 percent of that water is used inside the home during daily activities like taking a shower, brushing our teeth, going to the bathroom, cooking, washing clothes, etc. So what can we do to use our water more efficiently?

Well, here are several green tips for saving water in and around the home:

  • One of the first things we should do is to repair any leaks around the home.  Did you know that the average American household can waste over 10,000 gallons of water every year from leaking toilets, dripping faucets, or other leaks in pipes at home and in the garden?
  • Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth or shaving
  • Take short showers instead of baths
  • Use the dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded!
  • Instead of rinsing dishes first, just scrape the food off plates when loading them into the dishwasher.
  • Another suggestion that helps to save water and reduce waste—take food wastes to make compost instead of using the garbage disposal.
  • Only wash full loads of laundry and make the appropriate water selection according to the load size
  • Get water efficient appliances (dishwasher, clothes washer, showerheads, toilets, etc.) with the WaterSense label.  These are 20 percent more water efficient than other traditional products on the market.
  • In the garden, don’t overwater your plants and lawn.
  • Water the plants in the early morning before 7 am to reduce evaporation.
  • Check your garden hose for leaks. Close the water faucet when not in use.
  • When landscaping, choose native plants that are appropriate for your region. Not only will they use less water, but they are more resistant to pests and diseases.

Hope these tips are useful. Are you doing anything special to save water at home this summer?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Gardening With Water Use In Mind

By Amber Lefstead

This year, for the first time in my life, I purchased a gardening spade and seeds for my garden. I love a beautiful garden, but the task of creating and maintaining one has always been daunting. But from the moment I began, I fell in love with it. There is something so satisfying about gardening—feeling the dirt crumble between your fingers as you loosen the earth, planting a seed and watching it grow into a beautiful flower.

That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is. But, seeing your yard transform into something beautiful and beneficial for the environment makes it so rewarding. Before I started my garden, it was barren with a Magnolia tree stump in the middle. Now, it is full of flowers, ground covers, and mulch. The flowers feed the neighborhood bees, butterflies, and birds, while the ground covers and mulch blanket the soil, keeping it moist and cool.

After planting my garden, the real trick has been maintaining it. With this hot, dry summer in Washington D.C. , that has been no easy task. As temperatures rise during the peak water season, it’s a good time for everyone to consider their outdoor water use. Peak water season is usually late July and early August and is the time when residential water use is highest.

Water use was a big concern in creating my landscape. I work for the EPA WaterSense program and, among other things, I create educational materials for consumers on water-efficient landscaping, so I kept water in mind at every step:

  • I purchased low water use plants and seeds that would need minimal supplemental water
  • I amended sandy soil patches with compost to help hold moisture at the root zone
  • I loosened plants’ roots from their potting soil before planting to encourage deep root growth
  • I covered exposed soil with mulch to hold in moisture and minimize evaporation

I also make sure to water at night or in the early morning to minimize evaporation. And I water deeply and infrequently to encourage the plants’ roots to spread into the surrounding soil so they are resourceful and drought tolerant. In the next year or so after their roots establish, they should need minimal supplemental water beyond normal rainfall. I’ll let you know how that goes!

About the author: Amber Lefstead joined EPA in 2009 as the Outdoor Coordinator for the WaterSense program. Her recent low water use garden installation was inspired by her work at the Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Simple Steps to Big Savings

fix a leak week-drop of waterDrip. Drip. Drip. Did you know your home could be wasting up to 10,000 gallons each year from easy-to-fix water leaks? Many of these leaks are do-it-yourself fixes that could cost only a few dollars to address. Sponsored by EPA’s WaterSense® program, Fix a Leak Week reminds homeowners of the easy steps we can all take to help save water in our communities now and for future generations.

1. Find Leaks
A good method to check for leaks is to examine your winter water use. If it exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, you probably have leaks. Walk around your home with eyes and ears open to find leaks, and don’t forget to check pipes. You can also reveal a silent toilet leak by adding a few drops of food coloring to the tank and waiting 15 minutes without flushing. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak. Be sure to flush afterwards so as not to stain the bowl or tank.

2. Fix Leaks
Many times fixing leaks can be done yourself and doesn’t have to cost a cent. Both faucets and showerhead connections can be tightened or sealed with a wrench or pipe tape. For leaky toilets, the rubber flapper inside the tank is often the culprit. Over time the flapper decays, but replacing it only costs a few dollars. If you don’t feel comfortable with these repairs, a licensed plumber can help. Irrigation systems and outdoor spigots can also be the source of water loss. A WaterSense irrigation partner who is certified in water-efficient irrigation technologies and techniques can ensure your outdoor irrigation system works properly.

3. Save Water
Fixing household leaks not only saves water but can reduce water utility bills by more than 10 percent. Dripping faucets can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, a showerhead leaking 10 drips per minute about 500 gallons per year, and running toilets 200 gallons or more each day!

Fix a leak weektitlte

For more information and tips about how to save water during Fix a Leak Week, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak. WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by EPA to help Americans save water. The WaterSense label can be found on toilets, faucets, urinals, and—coming soon—showerheads that use at least 20 percent less water and are independently tested and certified to perform as well as or better than standard plumbing fixtures.

About the author: Stephanie Thornton has worked at EPA for 7½ years and manages marketing and partner relationships for WaterSense’s residential plumbing program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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