A September 2013 article in the National Journal highlighted the importance of preserving our fresh water supply in the United States. The global consumption of water, according to the article, is three times higher than it was just 50 years ago.
While we have not run out yet, predictions show that our need for fresh water will outpace our supply by as much as 40% within just 15 years. Short-term and long-term droughts, combined with human activity, are causing increased water scarcity. Organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) are helping to reduce water usage to create a more sustainable future.
The U.S. Green Building Council
The USGBC was created more than two decades ago in 1993 as a private, non-profit entity. Since that time it has developed a mission to create, promote, and implement building designs that are both sustainable and practical from an operational standpoint.
This organization was the driving force behind the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which provides information about the overall impact of a building on the environment. Buildings can achieve a score based on their design and construction, interior design, ongoing operations, and neighborhood development that demonstrate sustainability. It’s a points-based system that includes four certification levels:
- Certified (40-49 points)
- Silver (50-59 points)
- Gold (60-79 points)
- Platinum (80+ points)
How Water Factors in to Rating Systems
One of the things that USGBC considers important is water conservation, recycling, and usage, since a significant amount (12%) of the 400 billion gallons of water used in the U.S. every day are used for construction, building operations, and landscaping. By reducing the amount of water used through renewable building practices, smart landscaping, and low-flow appliances, companies can help limit water usage.
Annual Water Conservation Showcase
In addition to their certification program, USGBC hosts an annual event called the Water Conservation Showcase. Innovative and sustainable companies come to demonstrate their most recent designs that help facilitate better usage for water. Some of the things you might see at the showcase include:
- New technologies for recycling graywater (water used in showers, baths, dishwashers, or washing machines) for use in irrigation or in toilets
- Low-flow faucets or toilets
- Innovations in appliances that can help buildings and homeowners reduce water usage
While some conservation strategies require a lot of work, others are easily implemented and can quickly improve a home or building’s LEED rating. Replacing faucets and showerheads with low flow alternatives, purchasing a salt-free water softener rather than a salt-based system, planting drought-resistant vegetation, and using only non-potable water for irrigation and landscaping (thus preserving potable water for consumption).
Finally, building owners and homeowners can get energy efficient appliances and add insulation that will reduce the need for heating and cooling, or replace older appliances with more effective ones that won’t put so much pressure on hydroelectric systems. Using recyclable or sustainable materials, such as steel or bamboo can also reduce landfill waste.
Since water is such a critical part of our future, the efforts of the USGBC are essential in helping us achieve better practices today for a more environmentally-friendly future.