Water can be heavily impacted
by residential construction. Site clearing and grading often cause erosion
and polluted runoff. Urban and suburban development decreases the percentage
of permeable surfaces, reducing the ability of the land to absorb and filter
incoming rain and pollution. And,
as population and housing developments expand, there is demand for more
Water Quality Impacts
- In 2000, over 40% of the nations' rivers, lakes and estuaries assessed
by states and tribes were found to be impaired.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Nonpoint sources of suspended solids contribute approximately 95% of the
average daily loading of sediments to receiving waters in the U.S.
- Residential land uses have the highest "Event Mean Concentrations"
of pollutants in stormwater runoff.
Water Quantity Considerations
- The average American used 5 to 10 gallons of water a day in 1900. By 2000
individual use was estimated at between 50 and 100 gallons a day, and even
more if agricultural and industrial uses are determined on a per capita
basis. Much of the increase is due to modern conveniences of indoor plumbing
(washing machines, toilets, dishwashers, etc.) and exterior landscaping
Source: National Wildlife Federation
- Typical household water use in the 21st century includes the
- Potable Uses-Food, Drinking, etc (9%)
- Laundry and Dishwashing (16%)
- Toilet Use (19%)
- Shower and Bathing Use (20%)
- Lawn and Garden Use (36%)
Source: Green Builder Sourcebook
Reasons to Change
With almost 1,600,000 residential construction projects a year,
many impacts can endanger the quality of water and set the stage reduce
the quantity of water. Major impacts from residential construction and
home use include degradation of water quality and the large amount of
water used for lawns and gardens. Another is wastewater. Research indicates
that a typical household wastes between 8000 and 10,000 gallons of water
a year while waiting for hot water to arrive at the tap. Impacts to water
quality and quantity can be reduced through environmental design and construction
suggest that local drought is caused, or at least made more severe, by sprawl.
Consequently, financial and environmental benefits result from designing and
building homes with water protection and conservation in mind. They include:
- Avoid National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
- Reduced material and labor costs by minimizing plumbing and
land clearing activities
- Increase marketing appeal
- Lessen strain on municipal services while improving community
relations, (this may save money in communities that charge for
community service impacts)
- Enhanced stability of groundwater and municipal
- Lower sewage bills or increased life of septic system
- Potentially lower-maintenance landscaping
- Increase energy-efficiency, since water conservation design
often reduces energy use as well, e.g. shorter pump run time,
shorter water heating time, etc.
- Lower water bills
- Enhanced recreational and economic opportunities in the community
P2 in Action: Site Preparation and Construction Activities
Protecting soil structure and natural vegetation are among the best ways
to protect water quality and quantity. Using materials and techniques that
enable water to flow naturally above and below the surface without adding
pollutants provide the most benefits.
- Design and construct building with minimal impact on site topography
and natural drainage ways; disturb only areas needed to install foundations
and roadways. Minimize driving on mud.
- Insure that existing (site or neighbors) and new wells are protected
(cased, sealed or grouted) from drainage and contamination.
- Design terrain to drain away from wellhead.
- Install anti-backsiphoning valves between well and water pipes.
- Contact the local building or planning department for sewer hookup
and the county or state Health Department for septic tank or drainfield
- Maintain a naturally vegetated buffer next to streams, lakes, ponds
- Replace topsoil removed during construction; replant exposed areas
as soon as practical.
- Maximize permeable materials for driveways, walkways and porches.
- Use silt fencing or biofiltration (permeable bags filled with chips,
compost or bales of straw) to control erosion during construction.
- Designate appropriate locations for washing vehicles and equipment
- away from surface waters, storm drains and slopes that could erode,
at carwash or at builders' shop with a sump.
- Sweep surfaces rather than spraying with water; dispose of sweepings
in trash instead of down drains.
- Immediately repair all equipment and vehicle leaks.
- Use biodegradable detergents and chemicals; minimize the amount used.
P2 in Action: Indoor Water Conservation
While virtually all water used indoors returns to a system and
is reused, domestic indoor demands cost a lot of money because of the infrastructure
necessary to deliver it. Conservation, and the suggestions below, can substantionally
reduce water demand, extend life of pumps, appliances, and fixtures, and
- Strategically place water heater close to point of use (reduces materials
and hot water waiting period), install on demand water heater, or an
on demand recirculating pump that keeps hot water at the tap.
- Buy high quality fixtures with replaceable parts.
- Capture greywater for toilet and irrigation; divert cool wastewater
from showers (prior to hot water arrival) for use in toilets.
- Consider air assisted or compost toilet.
- Choose low-flow equipment for toilet, shower, faucet.
- Choose water efficient appliances and equipment.
P2 in Action: Outdoor Water Conservation
Contentious landscaping can compliment a well-planned lawn. Native,
or non-invasive exotic, plants adapted to the region can provide suitable
ground cover. They will keep soil in place, reduce the amount of pollen
in the air, help water percolate underground, and minimize overall maintenance,
including watering. Careful attention to plant selection and watering systems
will protect ground and surface water, as well.
- Direct runoff from roof toward landscaping and away from foundation
rather than down storm drains (reduces water use as well as storm water
and pollutant runoff).
- Maintain and replant hardy, native trees and shrubs; reduce lawn coverage;
xeriscape for greatest drought-resistance.
- Remove non-native and nuisance plants without use of herbicides.
- Design a rooftop garden.
- Install a zoned irrigation system, including a rain sensor shut off.
Staying Current -
sources below are sources of up-to-date information.
News (news, product reviews and current events)
- Storm Water Resource
Center (stormwater and watershed protection information)
Industry Compliance Assistance Center (access to stormwater regulations
nationwide and permit processes)