Water Conservation

Water Conservation in Buildings

Water conservation is not just for drought!

Water use like energy use is easily quantifiable. Unfortunately, the cost applied to the use of water is often far below the true value of a litre. However, similar strategies of conservation apply.

Key Word(s)
water, conservation, efficiency, rainwater, collection, xeriscaping, grey water, gray water


The first step is to reduce overall water usage. This can be achieved by stopping and preventing leaks in piping, installing or converting to water conserving fixtures, insulating hot water pipes, recycling greywater, collecting rainwater, and installing water meters.

Leaks within the building plumbing system may account for 10% or more of total water pumped. Proper, regular maintenance is key to reducing leaks. Low flow fixtures are often cost comparable and can be installed easily (see alternative products below).

A lot of water is wasted when people turn on the hot water and wait for it to arrive at the tap. If possible hot water production should be located nearest the points of usage. Increasing pipe insulation or installing recirculating units can save not only water but energy as well! Finally, installing water meters allows for data collection and the ability to set water reduction goals with a means to measure conservation success.


  • Reduce overall water usage. Reducing water consumption decreases municipal infrastructure (if connected), reduces wastewater, reduces energy to produce hot water.
  • Perform a water budget analysis to project the amount and configuration of daily wastewater flows. Without a budget, it is difficult to identify potential savings and quantify conservation successes.
  • Specify, install, and retrofit low flow water fixtures.
  • Select low flush 6 litre or less toilets, or install composting toilets.
  • Select low or no flush urinals.
  • Install aerators on all taps.
  • Install or replace showerheads with low flow nozzles.

Outside the Building – Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is the landscaping strategy that assumes a dry climate and thus only uses plants and vegetation that is accustomed to a dry environment. Really this is common sense. Why plant exotic plants that require large amounts of inputs (water, fertilizer, maintenance, chemicals, weeding) largely because they are not meant to be in that environment.

Choosing local varieties of plants also prevents a lot of environmental problems related to foreign pests and invasion of foreign species in a local gene pool.

Inside the Building – Grey or Gray (US) Water

A typical home today accepts treated water and uses it unanimously for drinking, bathing, washing dishes, washing clothes, washing the car and watering the lawn. Most uses that do not require expensive treated water. Unfortunately, most conventional buildings do not have dual plumbing lines that can allow for both treated and greywater use.

Toilets are typically the main water users in a home. And we use treated water there too. And our lawn does not need chlorinated/fluorinated (depending on your jurisdiction) water.

Ironically, water is scarce in many places. It is estimated that in Tucson, Arizona – 95% of the precipitation that hits the ground is engineered to flow into the sewers, as opposed to replenishing the groundwater reserves.

In a dry climate like Calgary, Alberta the roof of a typical home could supply enough water for a wasteful 5 person family. And it’s pretty dry here. Imagine Vancouver or Seattle. Of course, the accompanying technology with a greywater system is composting toilets.

Composting Toilets

A composting toilet is a unit that uses little or no water, little or no electricity, and turns biological waste into valuable compost. In the past, composting toilets were best suited for remote cabins in the wilderness. But today, improvements in technology allow commercial buildings and even skyscrapers to take advantage of this exciting means to treat our wastes on-site.

Does it smell? How much does it cost? Find out more at the Composting Toilet World (http://www.compostingtoilet.org)