Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mike Holmes: Be Water Smart

In Southern Nevada USA, where I live, our water district has a little jingle that they use in all of their PSA's: "It's a desert out there, be water smart." Water usage is something that concerns all of us who live in a dry arid climate. The truth is, the earth has the same amount of water that it did 5,000 years ago. Water evaporates into the atmosphere and then is recycled back to the earth's surface by means of rain or snow. Over 70 percent of the earth's surface is covered by water, yet less than one percent of that water is fresh. So, if there is no more or less water on earth now than there will be in 100 years from now, why conserve it? Fresh water supplies such as rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers can be overused, draining the supply faster than it can be replenished by nature, so it's important that we treat our fresh water supply with care. In this article, Mike talks about conserving the elixir of life. Incorporating "grey-water" recovery systems for non-potable water use such as flushing toilets, washing cars, and doing laundry can be a great way conserve natural resources. Another way to save water is to make sure your plumbing is properly maintained to maximize its efficiency and minimize leaks. The great thing about conserving natural resources is that using less of them means your also using less energy, which can mean big savings in your wallet. It's a win-win all the way around.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

MIKE HOLMES: Be water smart

It's the elixir of life, and you can conserve it

It takes a lot of water to produce much of the power we use every day, such as hydroelectric, nuclear and thermal. We use water to power turbines and generate electricity (sometimes as steam). We use water to cool thermal and nuclear reactors.
The other side of that equation is about eight per cent of all the energy generated worldwide is used to pump, treat and transport water to consumers.
So we're burning the candle at both ends, using water to generate electricity, then using electricity to transport, treat and pump water. Does this really make sense? It might have 50 or 70 years ago, but not anymore.
We need better ways to maintain our homes, because once our water supply starts drying up, it's game over.
I've been saying it for years: Housing has to be sustainable. Future communities have to be sustainable. We don't have a choice. It's that simple.
As a builder and renovator, sustainability has become the name of my game. Every time I approach a reno, a new build, a new community, I'm thinking of how we can make the homes more energy-efficient, which includes smart ways to use water.
As a homeowner, there are plenty of things you can do to help, too. For one, understand that saving energy saves water, and saving water saves energy.
Only about 10 per cent of clean water is used for drinking or cooking. The rest gets used for showers, baths, laundry, watering lawns and gardens and washing cars. Do our cars really need to be washed with drinking-quality water? Or how about our toilets? My dog Charlie might appreciate having drinking-quality water in the throne, but Mother Nature doesn't -- it's a royal flush of good water.
One smart water solution you might want to consider is incorporating a grey-water recovery system in your home.
Grey water is used water that's been treated and filtered, then used for such functions as flushing toilets, watering the lawn, washing the car and doing laundry. It can't be used for drinking, showering or bathing. You can also have a greywater system that collects only rainwater from your gutters and downspouts.
According to Environment Canada, toilets use one-third of a household's total water consumption. That's 33 per cent of the average household's water bill. A grey-water system in a house, used to flush toilets and water lawns, could save about 150 litres of drinking water per day per household. When you start crunching the numbers, that works out to a heck of a lot of water.
Each municipality has different rules when it comes to grey water, so check with your local authorities on where they stand.
Another option is to hire a licensed plumber to fix any leaks in your home's plumbing. The average home can lose 7,500 to 75,000 litres of water just because of leaks.
Or how about adding a green roof or installing a domestic hot-water recovery system?
Green roofs have some type of plants or greenery covering parts of the roof or the entire area. They're environmentally friendly, help manage stormwater runoff, which reduces the amount of pollutants that enter our water systems, and can help homeowners save money on heating and cooling costs because they provide some insulation.
A hot-water recovery system recaptures the heat from hot water that's already been used as it goes down the drain -- for instance from showers, washing dishes and laundry. It then uses this water to preheat water going into the hot-water tank.
Everyone has a role when it comes to taking care of our home and the Earth, and using our water sensibly is one really big way we can all make a difference and make it right.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014
Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information, visit

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