Building-wide changes when renovating. Our Article Water Heating - Understanding Water-Saving and Energy-Saving Measures explores the application of the different mechanisms for making a hot water delivery system more efficient so that hot water reaches fixtures quickly avoiding the water waste that comes from letting the water run to get hot, and we will be evaluating each of them for use in 168 Clinton so check our 168 Clinton St. blog or subscribe to an RSS feed.

If you are embarking on a major renovation that will enable you to run additional piping, install a graywater reuse system if you can do so under your building code, which is not yet approved in NYC. It is only a matter to time, however, before NYC turns its attention to home water conservation measures, in which case it makes sense to design and run the piping for a gray water reuse system so that it is ready to hook up to the required filters and what-not once the technology is approved by the Building Code.  Check back for upcoming articles on graywater. 

If you really want to go green you can consider a no-flush urinal like the Waterless no-flush urinal. They generally work by interposing a filter cartridge of liquid in the drain; the liquid is lighter than urine so the urine passes through it and the filter liquid stays on top, forming a seal that keeps out sewer gases. The liquid itself is scented. The manufacturers state that the liquid filter cartridge should be changed after 1500 uses (1500 uses would save about 4,500 gallons of water). These have primary application in commercial spaces so the designs are typically institutional looking. One concern is that the manufacturer typically states that the user should stick to its daily cleaning routine, and to not use water to clean it, which raises some concern in my mind about the maintenance issues and practicality of using this type of unit in a home.

Simple changes when not renovating. There are many simple things you can do around the house to reduce your use of potable water.

• Install low-flow faucets and showerheads, a relatively easy and inexpensive fix that can have a big impact. Fixtures manufactured after 1994 are required, by federal regulation, to have flow-rates that do not exceed 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at a pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (psi), and faucets cannot have flow-rates that exceed 2.2 gpm (be sure the water pressure is set between 20 and 80 psi or else your fixture will not work well). Product advancements for sink faucets, such as the use of aerators and laminar flow fixtures, can reduce faucet flow to between 0.5 and 1 gpm without a noticeable drop in the perception of the amount of water being supplied through the fixture.
• Stop leaks (faucets, toilets, sprinklers).
• Replace toilets that date before 1992 with models that use 1.6 gallons or less. A family of four can save 14,000 to 25,000 gallons of water annually with this simple change. OR, get a dual flush toilet or dual-flush adapter for existing toilets.
• Replace old clothes washers and dishwashers with an Energy Star® model which typically uses 35% - 50% less water and 50% less energy to run. Self-heating dishwashers and clothes washers also save energy because less hot water used from a central hot water heater means less energy consumed to heat water. Also, efficient clothes washers spin-dry your clothes more effectively so your clothes dryer doesn’t have to run as long, thus saving energy during drying as well.
• Replace a landscaping plan with a Xeriscaping plan -- use drought resistant plants or plants that do not require supplemental irrigation and take measures to reduce water loss though evaporation. Also, avoid overwatering by changing your irrigation settings as the weather changes and install a rain shutoff device, soil moisture sensor or humidity sensor to help control irrigation flow.
• Install a rainwater harvesting and reuse system for irrigation.
• Install an under-sink gray water diversion to toilets. I must note that they are not yet approved by the NYC building code.

Change your behavior: Try to stay aware of this precious resource disappearing and turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving and always wash laundry and dishes with full loads. When washing dishes by hand, fill up the sink and turn off the water. Take shorter showers or shower with a friend. Fill up a pitcher of water to keep in the refrigerator rather than running the tap waiting for the water to get cold.

Under-sink grey water systems. I will start by noting that as of the date of this writing, these systems are not yet approved in the NYC Building Code. These are systems that redirect the sink water to the toilet so that he user does not use potable water to flush the toilet. One system developed by Aqus™ can be retrofitted under a bathroom sink, is powered by gravity and a small 5 gallon tank, and has a back-up valve system to allow fresh water to flow into the toilet if there is not enough stored sink-water for flushing. The filter must be changed and chlorine tablets (for cleaning) must be replaced every year.