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Water Efficiency Introduction

Community prosperity and well-being are directly dependent upon a sufficient supply of clean water. In addition to basic human health and sanitation, a clean and adequate water supply provides crucial benefits such as irrigation for agriculture, habitat for myriad plants and animals, aesthetics, recreational opportunities, and a symbol of vitality. 

Although the world is covered by 70 percent water, only 2.5 percent of this water is freshwater. According to a report by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, a mere .007 percent of the Earth’s total freshwater resources is accessible for human use. The report also stated that world water use has grown at more than twice the rate of the population increase during the past century. 

Management of freshwater resources to accommodate growing communities has traditionally focused on supply-side projects such as dams and reservoirs. But often these large-scale projects have generated negative impacts such as water diversion from fish and wildlife habitats and have fostered dependence on wasteful management practices. Additionally, the costs of obtaining and treating new sources of water have steadily risen, making demand-side options economically attractive. 

Just as rising fuel prices during the energy crisis of the 70’s led to the development of more energy efficient appliances and vehicles, recent improvements in water-conserving technologies for toilets, showerheads, irrigation equipment, and faucets have enabled the maintenance of quality lifestyles while consuming less water. (Water Efficiency: A Resource for Utility Managers, Community Planners, and Other Decisionmakers, Rocky Mountain Institute, 1994.) Water efficiency strategies aim to employ these technologies along with innovative management practices to use less water while delivering an unchanged or improved level of service to consumers.  

There are numerous strategies or "Best Management Practices" (BMP) for communities and local governments to utilize in striving for Water Efficiency. Some examples include the following: 

  • conservation/efficiency rate structures
  • reduction of supply system leaks
  • waste water ordinances
  • landscape water use audits 
  • water-efficient landscaping (xeriscaping)
  • home and business audits and retrofits
  • water reclamation 
  • public education programs

This section provides access to the primary sources of assistance and information available to your community for implementing Best Management Practices for water efficiency and protection of water quality.

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