Efficiency can reduce water shortages
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So, what to do?Skip to next paragraph
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The conservation organization American Rivers has a few ideas. In a report titled "Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast," it argues that "19th century approaches," such as building more dams and creating more reservoirs, are not adequate to 21st-century challenges. They're up to 8,500 times more expensive than simple "efficiency investments."
The report outlines [PDF] nine such investments. Here are the first four:
Stop leaks. More than 6 billion gallons of water — some 14 percent of total water consumed — are lost through old, leaky pipes.
Price water correctly. The report proposes a flat fee that covers infrastructure costs plus a variable fee that follows the volume of water you use. Pricing water in this way can lessen usage by 15 percent, says the report.
Meter all water users. Condos, apartments, and commercial buildings often get water for a flat fee. Instead, install water meters for every user.
Retrofit all buildings. Water-efficient appliances and fixtures can lessen household water use by 35 percent, or 8.2 billion gallons daily. That would save an amount equivalent to all eight Southeastern states' public water supply, about 20 percent of the country's total water supply.
The report lists several case studies, places that reduced water consumption with improved efficiency:
– Cary, N.C., increased water supply by 11 percent with efficiency measures alone.
– Tampa, Fla., has grown its per capita water supply by 26 percent with efficiency measures.
– Boston succeeded in reducing its overall water consumption by one-third while increasing its customer base by 2 million people. The result? Not needing to build a proposed dam saved the city $500 million.
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