Sunday 10 February 2008

Got Water? Australia and California have something in common

My last post prompted me to look into how water is being conserved in the US. Water conservation is a hot topic in Australia, a product of about 7 years of drought. Although California has continuous serious water problems and is taking similar steps to drop consumption, the drive to save water hasn't been taken up generally in the US like in Australia. Here are some of the things happening in Australia, with notes from my limited knowledge of the US perspective:

  • Mandatory labelling and minimum standards for water efficiency have been introduced in Australia for pretty much everything that uses/delivers water. I haven't seen any water efficiency labelling of appliances etc. in the US.
  • Pretty much every Australian household has a dual-flush toilet, and these are mandatory in new homes. Most are 1.6 gallons per full-flush and 0.8 gallons per half-flush (6L/3L). Dual-flush toilets don't seem to exist in the US. The "high-efficiency" American 1.6 gpf (6 L) toilets replacing the old 3.5-8 gpf (13-30 L!) are obviously much better, but don't meet the Australian minimum standards of 1.45 gpf (5.5 L).
  • Waterless urinals are becoming more common in Australia. Haven't seen any in the US.
  • Grey-water recycling systems that use waste water from sinks and washing machines to flush toilets and irrigate gardens are common in new Australian homes. Those living in older houses without plumbed-in systems often run grey-water hoses from their washing machines as the only way to water the garden under harsh water restrictions. In contrast, many US cities and states have regulations prohibiting greywater re-use, so the introduction of similar systems in the US could be problematic.
  • Australian homeowners and increasing numbers of businesses are installing rainwater tanks to relieve the pressure of severe water restrictions. In the US, given the restrictions on clotheslines as "eyesores", I don't like the chances for rainwater tanks getting planning approval. Underground tanks are good for new homes, but can be tough to build into existing buildings.

I saw something I liked in all the Utah hotels I stayed in: the fan and light in the bathroom were on a timer, which is great encouragement to take a quick shower :) Australian hotels take note!

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