Sustainability 101: Water Use / by Dakota Park

Written by: Kelsey Saunders

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Welcome to the Sustainability 101 educational blog series! Our blog today will dive into efficient water use.

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Water use in buildings depends on several factors, including the efficiency of fixtures like faucets and toilets, the need to water plants and to maintain landscape, and the behaviour of the people that occupy the building.

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Water efficiency focuses on promoting small behavioural changes in users to reduce water consumption, such as selecting water-efficient products like low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets to reduce the amount of potable (drinking) water consumed and waste-water produced. A few examples of water efficiency strategies include using low-irrigation native vegetation in outdoor gardens, rainwater harvesting, rain gardens, low- or no-flow fixtures, and greywater reuse.

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Low-flow fixtures are easy to implement in any existing or new building. One interesting technology is composting toilets, which use little to no water and can create organic fertilizer for the garden.

Rainwater collection makes use of runoff water from roofs and other horizontal surfaces to be reused on the property. The water collected from this method can be used for outdoor irrigation such as garden maintenance and, if your local municipality allows, toilet flushing. Rainwater collection systems can vary in size depending on the need, and can be installed above-ground or below-ground. The versatility and ease of installation make this a great way to reduce water consumption.

Native and drought-tolerant landscaping reduces the demand for potable water in landscaping. Native plants have adapted to the local environmental conditions over thousands of years and thus are best suited to the local soil and climate conditions. Because of this, local native species are more adaptive, hardy to drought and disease and require less watering and maintenance.

A rain garden utilizes the benefits of both native landscaping and rainwater collection. A rain garden is a landscaped depression in the earth filled in with loose, deep soil that naturally filters storm water and prevents it from entering our waterways. A rain garden is low maintenance and planted with beautiful, hardy native plants that attract pollinators and require little to no watering.

The final water efficiency strategy in this discussion is greywater reuse. Greywater is a term used to describe gently used water from bathroom sinks, showers and tubs. It sometimes includes wastewater from kitchen sinks and laundry depending on where the building is located. Greywater reuse involves the collection and treatment of this water for use in toilet-flushing, outdoor irrigation and constructed wetlands, reducing the overall demand for potable (drinkable) water.

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Stay tuned for our next blog in the Sustainability 101 series!

*The Sustainability 101 lecture series is made as a supplemental learning initiative for high school students across Ontario