For those people involved in sustainability, water—or specifically the lack of water to meet future demands—is a growing concern. This is perhaps most apparent to residents in the Western U.S., where a drought has caused a rather dramatic decline in water flowing in the Colorado River, which provides water for thousands of people and millions of acres of farmland. However, what many people don’t know if that this drought has lasted for 14 years.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that these conditions are “unrivaled in 1,250 years…The once broad and blue river has in many places dwindled to a murky brown trickle. Reservoirs have shrunk to less than half their capacities, the canyon walls around them ringed with white mineral deposits where water once lapped.”
According to the newspaper, communities depending on the river are turning to a variety of recycling programs, including recycling sewage effluent, to help address this mounting concern. Tax rebates to remove lawns and water-thirsty vegetation have become the norm in states like New Mexico and Arizona, and many states are also offering rebates to consumers and businesses to replace older water-using appliances with more efficient alternatives. For commercial facilities, this includes restroom fixtures that are either low-flow or, in many cases, no-flow systems, such as waterless urinals, which can save as much as 40,000 gallons of water per urinal.
However, what the residents and businesses in these states must now realize is that they are not being asked to conserve water temporarily; instead, they are being asked to use it more efficiently now and into the future. There is a big difference between the two propositions and greatly affects the way we design our buildings.