Water Use

by
Dr. John Vann, Department of Marketing
Green Initiatives Coordinator
February 2003

In the Muncie area, water consumption is tied to sustainability largely through energy use. Energy and other resources are used to pump, purify, store, and distribute water, with additional energy required to process water discharged into the sewers. The use of warm or hot water requires extra energy for heating.  Since most of the energy associated with our use of water ultimately relies on the combustion of fossil fuels, it results in the release of greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, and mercury (which contaminates our waterways).

There are both structural (physical) and behavioral options for conserving water. Structural modifications that affect water consumption may be made during or after construction of a building or house.  Low-volume shower heads or flush toilets are mandated for new construction and use about 1/4 of the water required by conventional systems. Low-volume shower heads are very inexpensive and easy to install as retrofits. Low-volume flush toilets may also be purchased for existing structures. For institutional applications, there are waterless urinals. These require no water for flushing and result in substantial savings. Interior faucets should have aerators that combine air with water to reduce the flow needed for washing hands or rinsing dishes. New, horizontal-tub washing machines use about 1/2 of the water required for a conventional machine. For gardening, drip irrigation is an extremely efficient way to water plants and vegetables. In addition, plants with low watering requirements may be purchased to create a xeriscape.

Behavioral changes involve the frequency and duration of water flow.  Showers of five minutes or less, turning off the water while lathering in the shower or brushing teeth or while soaping the car, washing windows with a bucket of water instead of the hose, and washing full loads of laundry are all examples of home water conservation activities.