"The plan underscores the importance of implementing the projects in the state water plan. Without those projects in place, Texas will face an 8.9 million acre-foot shortage of water in 2070 in a drought and economic losses of approximately $151 billion by 2070," said Peter Lake, a member of the Texas Water Development Board.

Meeting 2025 Water Efficiency Standards Today

It is expected that EO 13693 will be adopted by many private buildings and facilities as they seek ways to be greener and more sustainable.

Building owners and managers have learned a great deal about conserving water as a result of the four-year drought in California. And now that President Barack Obama has issued Executive Order (EO) 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, the timing could not be more perfect to apply what has been learned about water efficiency throughout the country.

The order focuses on ways to enhance energy and water efficiency. While it applies specifically to federally owned and operated locations, as with similar orders, such as President Bill Clinton's EO 13101 (issued in September 1998; EO 13693 was issued in March 2015), which emphasized the use of green cleaning products in federally owned and operated facilities, it is expected this order will be adopted by many private buildings and facilities as they seek ways to be greener and more sustainable.

The essence of EO 13693 is to maintain federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions. As it pertains to water, the order states:

  • Potable (drinkable) water consumption measured in gallons per gross square foot is to be reduced 36 percent by fiscal year 2025; this will be accomplished through reductions of 2 percent annually through fiscal year 2025 relative to a baseline established in 2007.
  • Water meters are to be installed and building and facility water balance data are to be collected and used to improve water conservation and management. Surprisingly, some facilities in some areas of the country have no or limited systems to measure water consumption.
  • Industrial, landscaping, and agricultural water consumption measured in gallons is to be reduced by 2 percent annually through fiscal year 2025 based on 2010 water consumption.

There is also a section in the order that calls for the development of "net zero water buildings." Essentially, this refers to designing, building, and operating facilities that greatly reduce overall water consumption, recycle and reuse water, and implement ways to use water as efficiently as possible. The use of the word "efficiently" in this context refers to a long-term reduction of a natural resource such as water. This differs from "conservation," which typically refers to temporary measures implemented, for instance, during a drought.

The California Way
As mentioned earlier, water reduction strategies have been in place in California for several years, primarily as a result of current and past droughts, and some facilities are close to meeting the water reduction requirements of EO 13693 already. An example is Camp Pendleton, a major West Coast base of the U.S. Marine Corps located on the dry Southern California coast in San Diego County. The base has already reduced water use by 20 percent since 2009, the baseline year used in the order, and according to base spokesperson Edward D. Banta, it is "well on its way to exceed the mandates of EO 13693 several years before 2025."

So how has Camp Pendleton accomplished this, and how does it plan to reduce water consumption even further over the next 10 years? Many of the steps implemented can be used in most types of locations—schools and universities, for example—as well in most types of facilities. Among the steps are the following:

Start with a mission statement. While the base's mission statement reads more like a military order, it sets the pace for the entire program and is an example of what many building owners and managers can use as they begin implementing EO 13693. Essentially it says that all facility managers on the base "are directed to take immediate action and/or continue implementing actions to reduce potable water usage while simultaneously planning for long term actions to ensure water security and sustainability."

Compile reports. There are many facilities in North America where building owners and managers do not have an accurate picture of just how much water their facilities are actually consuming. Often this is because water is underpriced and not as big an expense as, for instance, energy. But in order to use water more efficiently, a water baseline must be established now and be continuously updated.

Establish a "water team." A water team is responsible for finding ways to reduce water consumption and implementing programs to do so. Identify “non-mission-critical” water use. Applied to building owners and managers, this refers to water used for landscaping and for dust abatement at construction sites. Facilities can implement this by landscaping using native vegetation, which typically uses water more sparingly.

Implement best practices. Related best practices apply mostly to outdoor water use and include things such as limiting how often vehicles are washed (one car every two weeks, for example), installing shut-off nozzles on all hoses, installing drip irrigation systems and removing overhead water systems, setting up specific times to irrigate landscaping (say, from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. only), irrigating for only seven minutes and only one or two days per week, holding off on all irrigation for four days after a rainfall event, eliminating all washing down of sidewalks and exterior areas of facilities, and ensuring there is never any water runoff into streets and gutters.

Detect and repair leaks. Surprisingly, detecting and eliminating leaks can be one of the most significant ways to reduce water consumption, especially in a larger facility.

Restroom Fixtures
Camp Pendleton and other military bases in California and around the country have also taken steps to reduce water consumption in restrooms, specifically with showers, faucets, and urinals. A typical facility uses more water in restrooms than anywhere other than irrigating vegetation.

In some cases, making restroom water use more efficient simply means installing faucet aerators as well as low-flow toilets, which reduce water consumption to about 1.25 gallons per flush. And because the state of California now requires new urinals to use no more than 0.5 gallon of water per flush, many facilities are taking this a step further and installing no-water urinals. Not only do they use no water, as the name implies, they are more cost effective because there is no need to install flush valves and related plumbing.

While some executive orders and acts of Congress are met with opposition, especially when they apply to environmental issues, there have been few voices heard objecting to EO 13693. This is likely because the need for the order, at least in California and many other western states, is so real. And the order is likely a positive step for the entire country. Historically, the United States has taken water for granted, without giving it a second thought. We now know those days are over and water—just like oil, gas, and our environment—is a consideration in everything we do as a nation.

About the Author

A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt is founder and CEO of Waterless Co. Inc., based in Vista, Calif. Reichardt founded the company in 1991 with the goal of establishing a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water efficiency in mind. Along with the Waterless No-Flush urinal, which works completely without water, the company manufactures other restroom and plumbing-related products.