Written by Narayana Asogan, P.Eng.
Water is a rare commodity. Superficially water is very abundant – about 71% of Earth’s surface is covered with water. However, 96.5% of it is salt water in the seas – not good for consumption as it is. Balance 3.5% are in fresh water lakes, glaziers and polar caps. 69% of the fresh water is in the form of ice (solidified water), meaning 2.4% is in liquid form.
Canada has about 20% of world’s freshwater and a low population – only about 0.5% of world’s population. Thus it is very tough for a Canadian to understand scarcity of water.
However the available fresh water needs to be treated before it could be said to be fit for human consumption. Municipalities treat the water before storing and delivering to the households and industries. Households and industries discharge used water into the sewers, which the municipalities transport to treatment centres, treat the sewers to a level acceptable to return to fresh water system, from where it undergoes further treatment to make suitable for human consumption and stored and delivered.
All these transportation of water, treatments, transport of sewers, sewer treatment etc. etc. requires quite a lot of energy and infrastructure. And costs of operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and cost of energy adds to the cost of water delivered to us.
Let us do some math to see what kind of savings is possible financially for a building by water conservation in just one area of water usage. Consider a multi-unit residential building of 100 apartments with an average occupancy of 3 per household. Let us say the building is with older water guzzling toilets from around the 90’s – about 15+ litres/flush. On the average 1 person would flush a toilet 5 times per day. Based on the above basic data on occupancy and flushing of toilet, if the toilets were replaced with newer 6 L/flush, about 5,000 m3 of water could be saved from flushing down, and the building management would save about $ 17,000 per year on water bills. Further savings are possible with dual flush toilets, low flow shower heads.
Example of toilet is considered for water conservation as it is estimated that about 47% of household water consumption is by the water guzzling toilets of 15 L/flush. Low flow faucets in kitchen would not contribute much savings as filling a pan would take longer with low flow and may not contribute much for saving.
At one apartment level one could see a substantial water saving and financial saving to the management. At the level of the municipality which serve several such communities water saving and the associated energy savings would be enormous.
In today’s world where energy conservation, reduction of CO2 emission, Carbon footprint reduction are essential, water conservation also become an essential component in energy conservation equation.
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