Water savings

By improving water use efficiency and reducing stormwater runoff, we can help clean up D.C.'s polluted rivers and take pressure off our stressed public water system, while significantly reducing residents' utility bills.

Cleaning up our rivers

Development can become a force for recovery of our polluted rivers if we design buildings and their surroundings to function like an urban forest, soaking up rainfall before it can overflow the sewer system. Simple and beautiful, planted swales and porous pavement parking lots are some of the Low Impact Development (LID) best practices that can help clean up the Anacostia River and take a big bite out of the $2 billion plus price tag of the new storm sewers that would otherwise be required. While asphalt and turf are cheap, they require considerable maintenance. Builders can cut costs by shrinking parking lots and planting shade trees that will reduce peak cooling loads. As national and more demanding local stormwater regulations come into effect, development will have to address these issues to comply with new rules. Smart site design today will win favor with neighbors and let you deliver a better development that restores our rivers.

Conserving with efficiency

When builders choose water-efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures, residents use less water, sending less down the drain to the sewer and demanding less from the public water system. Their bills stay low, even as the costs of water treatment and distribution rise. Energy bills drop too, both for residents using less hot water and for the water company that treats and pumps less water.

Water efficiency might not attract as much attention as energy efficiency, but it is an increasingly important element of green building, especially in light of recent dry spells and drought-like conditions in the Washington, D.C. region. Low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets and water-saving clothes and dishwashers can easily cut water use by 30 percent. Fixtures in new buildings must now meet basic efficiency standards, and the lifetime savings of even more efficient models are increasing as water rates rise around the country. The EPA estimates that a high efficiency toilet will save $90 in a year and more than $2,000 over its lifetime--approximately ten times the price premium. Rebates may be available through government incentive programs.

Savings mount with efficient design, from centralized laundry rooms to drought-resistant landscaping that shrinks or eliminates irrigation system and lowers maintenance costs. Some developers have achieved water efficiency gains of over 60 percent by capturing rainwater or greywater for irrigation and incorporating waterless urinals and low-flush toilets in common spaces. Savings of that magnitude would help us clean up the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and keep water rates in check for years to come.