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Regulatory trends in water efficiency


The plumbing industry is slow to change. This can be a good thing, because our health and safety depend on plumbing, but it can also be frustrating when trends need to change. For example: A growing concern is that plumbing professionals design systems only for the health and safety of people at the expense of the environment. Ultimately, however, if the environment suffers, we will all suffer. We must realize that plumbing systems should protect the health and safety of the public as well as protect the environment.

Plumbing systems have evolved to the point that, on a rainy day in a typical community, the stormwater system moves millions, or even billions of gallons of rainwater miles away from people and buildings. On that same day, billions of gallons of drinking water are moved miles in the opposite direction back toward buildings and people. Still on the same day, another plumbing system is moving wastewater away from people and buildings. We call this efficiency. (See the sidebar “Don’t cross the streams.”)

The average U.S. citizen uses more than 130 gallons of drinking water and creates 130 gallons of wastewater a day. Is this an efficient system? How much do these three systems cost our communities in dollars and environmental health?

If we keep using more water, in the future we will have to design systems that handle 200 gallons or more per person per day. Unfortunately, many cities are beyond their limits already, and systems cannot be extended or expanded. As a result, plumbing professionals have seen an increase in demand for plumbing systems that address these problems. Alternate, graywater and rainwater harvesting are topics we discuss every day. These systems are not specialty systems that are used in a few buildings. They are becoming more accepted and are being used as a new standard system by some.

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