Report Claims Efficiency Can Solve Problems

The Southeast can save more than $700 million and new water supply for over one million residents by embracing water efficiency solutions like stopping leaks and upgrading old buildings. That's according to the new report, "Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast" by American Rivers, the nation's leading river conservation organization.

The report outlines nine proven, timely, and cost-effective steps that local leaders can take to save water and help ensure their rivers remain valuable community assets.

"Water efficiency is the 21st century solution to the drought-stricken Southeast's water problems and must be the backbone of the region's water supply strategy," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

"In this time of economic uncertainty and shrinking budgets, water efficiency is the answer for local leaders who want cost-effective, proven, and immediate water supply solutions," Wodder said.

Water efficiency is far cheaper than getting supply through new dams -- dams cost up to 8,500 times more than water efficiency. 

The report calculates the potential savings for Metro Atlanta, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Columbia, S.C.

It also outlines nine key policies and practices local governments and utilities should adopt:

1. Stop leaks. Over six billion gallons of water are lost each day due to aging water distribution systems.

2. Price water right. Water should be priced to cover costs, encourage efficiency, and ensure access to clean drinking water. We can do this and still provide water for low-income residents at a reduced rate.

3. Meter all water users. Water meters should be installed in all new homes, multi-family apartment buildings, and businesses so water users can measure and monitor their consumption.

4. Retrofit all buildings. If all U.S. households installed water-efficient fixtures and appliances, the country would save more than 8.2 billion gallons per day enough water supply for all eight southeastern states or 20 percent of total U.S. consumption. 

5. Landscape to minimize water waste. On average, U.S. homes consume 30 percent of their water outdoors -- watering lawns, plants, and trees. By installing more innovative and efficient irrigation systems and drought-tolerant plants, communities would see 25 percent savings on outdoor water use.

6. Increase public understanding. Communities should equip individuals with information about their own water use patterns and educate the public about smart, simple water efficiency solutions.

7. Build smart for the future. Homes, businesses, and neighborhoods should be designed to capture and reuse stormwater and to use gray water and rainwater for non-potable purposes. Building codes and ordinances should be updated to support or require the use of the most water efficiency technologies.

8. Return water to the river. To maintain healthy flows, a portion of water efficiency "savings" should be returned to the river to serve as a "savings account" for a not-so-rainy day.

9. Involve water users in decisions. New opportunities for significant water savings can be found when all the stakeholders are at the table. Involving water users can increase efficiency.

"The Southeast is sitting on an enormous and forgotten water supply, and it's hiding in plain sight. There is a 'hidden reservoir' in our laundry rooms, kitchens and bathrooms," said Wodder. "This is the guarantee of water efficiency. By improving how we use and manage water, we can tap a brand new source of supply." 

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