Did you know that about half of all the water used in the home is used in the bathroom? If you have a mind to conserve water, renovating your bathroom is the perfect chance to up your game.
How much difference do water-efficient bathroom appliances make? Are they worth the price? Does it even matter that your bathroom is efficient when factories and farms use far more water than you ever could?
Water-saving appliances are more expensive at the check-out counter, but the savings add up over time. This article will first explain why you should be interested in conserving water in your home bathroom, and secondly, how to do it.
Why does residential water conservation matter? Isn’t it the big factories and farms that are the problem?
Water conservation matters in Washington State. Washington is prone to drought, and according to projections, droughts will increase in the coming years. The Washington State government is currently under a government-issued emergency drought declaration. This means that water supply conditions, such as streamflow levels, are currently or projected to be at or below 75% of average. In May of 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee expanded the drought emergency declaration to cover nearly half of Washington because of weather predictions for warmer dryer weather around the state. This emergency declaration is in effect until April 2020, at which point the situation will be reevaluated by the Department of Ecology.
If you live in an urban or suburban community, you might not have noticed the drought in the same way as your fellow Washingtonians living in a more rural environment. Droughts expose different populations to different levels of water vulnerability. Residents of large cities enjoy the water storage that protects the urban infrastructure. In contrast, residents and businesses that depend on smaller water systems lacking storage or source redundancy are at much higher risk. In addition, smaller water systems often lack “source redundancy” or multiple sources of water and are more vulnerable if the single source of water runs dry.
Since 2000, the longest drought (D1-D4) experienced in Washington state lasted 116 weeks, starting on January 7, 2014, and ending on March 22, 2016. The most intense drought, however, occurred the following year during the week of August 25, 2015, when a drought measuring D3 affected 84.6% of Washington land.
In this age of Covid-19, it has become even more apparent how much we depend on one another for our physical and economic well-being. Doing our part to be responsible citizens gives our children a fighting chance.
So what can you do?
Given that approximately half of the water that is used in the home is used in the bathroom, choosing water-efficient products makes a big difference. How can you know which products are actually effective? It can be overwhelming to walk into a showroom and try to assess all the different choices.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) launched the WaterSense program in 2006 to give U.S. consumers the information necessary to make wise choices. It’s easy to take advantage of this program. All you do is look for this label:
Or this (the same graphic on a blue background):
If you see this label, you can quickly understand that the product uses at least 20% less water than a non-efficient product of the same type. Products with the WaterSense label meet federal guidelines established by the EPA for responsible water use.
Approximately 30% of a home’s water consumption is flushed down the toilet. Investing in a water-efficient toilet makes good sense. A water-efficient toilet that meets WaterSense standards can reduce water consumption by up to 60% in comparison to a non-efficient toilet. Once toilets are installed, they are not easily replaced. Choosing a WaterSense-labeled model might be more expensive initially, but you will save in the long run.
Even though you want to be an environmentally-conscious consumer, you may not be willing to substitute a full-pressure shower for a wimpy drizzle. If you think this is the choice you make when choosing a water-efficient showerhead, think again. Modern showerheads use advanced technology to create the same sensation of pressure while maintaining effective water efficiency.
How is this possible? There are two types of low-flow showerheads available.
‘Non-aerating’ showerheads work by pressuring the water inside the showerhead and squeezing it out through smaller holes. The effect of this is a flow that feels slightly harder than usual. The effect, however, is subtle enough to make non-aerating shower heads an option worth considering.
‘Aerating’ showerheads, on the other hand, work by mixing the water with air, expelling soft, bubbly, white water, which is softer than water dispelled by a non-aerating shower head. Aerating showerheads provide a water flow generally considered to be a more enjoyable showering experience than the flow provided by the non-aerating showerheads.
Is there such a thing as a water-efficient bath? A bath uses twice as much water as a shower with a low-flow showerhead. A 10-minute shower uses approximately 25 gallons of water; a bath, closer to 50 gallons. If you bathe several times a week, the difference in water consumption over time is dramatic.
That said, bathtubs, especially walk in bathtubs, offer many benefits for people’s well-being—such as hydrotherapy that can help with circulation and ease muscle aches and pains. One perk of walk in tubs is that they can double as a shower, so you can combine showers with bathing as needed.