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Water-Efficiency Guidelines

green, water conservation, plumbing

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing systems and water conservation.

Maintenance and engineering managers responsible for ensuring the efficiency of plumbing systems in institutional and commercial facilities have seen a groundswell of national activity in recent years focusing on water conservation. New codes and standards now impact the way managers plan water-efficiency projects. Managers need to be aware of the many provisions of these initiatives, as well as changes to the regulations that can affect future decisions.

The initiatives fall into three categories: regulatory and legislative initiatives, including new codes and standards; updated green building initiatives; and assistance and information programs.

At both the national and state level, legislatures have enacted water-efficiency regulations. For example, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established federal standards for plumbing fixtures. It also set efficiency standards for water-using appliances, and it provided tax incentives for efficient clothes washers and dishwashers. Congress has not set a date to update this legislation, but changes are likely in the near future. Congress is now working on at least 10 bills related to water efficiency.

States from coast to coast also have passed major water-efficiency legislation in recent years. Texas and California now have laws mandating that all tank-type toilets use no more that 1.28 gallons per flush by 2014, and one-third of states have some type of water-efficiency regulations.

Beyond that, city and local authorities are enacting ordinances ranging from design requirements for landscape irrigation to amendments to local plumbing codes requiring increased water efficiency.

In addition to plumbing-fixture requirements, managers need to be aware of changes to related areas, including: metering and measurement; use of alternate on-site water sources; new standards for landscape irrigation; and requirements for water-using equipment, including equipment used in food service, medical applications, water treatment, and laundry services.

Managers should use the available resources — including the Internet and professional associations — to stay abreast of the many changes occurring regarding water efficiency. By taking advantage of the benefits and being aware of upcoming regulatory and code changes, managers can both reduce future operating costs and increase the sustainability of their facilities.

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