Urban Dams

Urban Dams

GreenPlumbersUSA, the innovative water and energy conservation program, has announced a long-term strategy to provide consumers with the knowledge, incentives, and tools they need to monitor and reduce their daily water usage, and to ultimately become champions of conservation for both the U.S. and the world.

When one thinks of a “dam,” the image of a concrete barrier holding back billions of gallons of water immediately comes to mind. Webster's dictionary has a much simpler definition. It defines the word “dam” as “any barrier that checks the flow of a stream.”

In the United States, streams of water flow through houses every day. Allowing these streams to go unmonitored is a careless waste of one of our most precious resources. GreenPlumbersUSA, the innovative water and energy conservation program, has announced a long-term strategy to provide consumers with the knowledge, incentives, and tools they need to monitor and reduce their daily water usage, and to ultimately become champions of conservation for both the U.S. and the world.

The GreenPlumbers solution is embodied in the GreenPlumbers Urban Dam Project - a comprehensive approach that includes identification of residential water and energy savings goals — house by house — and a three phase implementation plan.

With many parts of our country facing droughts, local governments and water agencies are implementing mandates and rations in order to provide an immediate, albeit short-term solution. While mandates and rationing are useful for getting through drought periods, they are merely band-aids in comparison to the inevitable surgery that will be required to provide water to an ever-increasing population. After the drought is gone and the mandates are lifted, management of water demand will no longer be of immediate concern, and water will once again become a wasted resource. The Urban Dam Project is one effort to achieve and sustain water conservation through behavioral change and implementation of new technology.

Implementation and delivery

For the first time in the U.S., according to GreenPlumbers, a program is being created that establishes a collaborative relationship between water distributers, plumbing professionals and end-users that will provide the means for the effective implementation of a superior water efficiency plan.

Water distributers will have the resources and the desire to reach end-users on a large scale and encourage them to have GreenPlumbers perform water audits on their homes. GreenPlumbers have an ever-expanding knowledge base of water efficient technology and the ability to encourage consumers to make conscientious decisions. The Urban Dam Project will provide consumers with the incentive and the tools they need to monitor their daily water usage and will leave them with a master plan for future improvement. The initial visit, in addition to a comprehensive 50 point audit, is also an installation opportunity that provides immediate water and energy savings. The consumer is then aware that the Urban Dam Project will result in annual savings and increased home valuation as the plan proceeds to Phase Two (appliance and fixture change-outs) and Phase Three (solar, graywater and rainwater alternative technologies).

Everyone involved in the program benefits while the program brings us closer to reaching a solution to our country's impending water crisis. Water distributors save money on supply infrastructure by effectively reducing demand, plumbing contractors increase business by adding green consulting to their business model and consumers save money while feeling good about doing their part for the green movement.

Accountability in tracking

For years, tremendous effort has been made to encourage people to want to conserve water, and this effort has been quite effective. People want to conserve water. Making people enthusiastic about conservation, however, is a far cry from providing them with the knowledge and the tools they need to effectively conserve. The Urban Dam Project ultimately aims to enable consumers to track their everyday water usage levels and will provide them with in-depth information on the many improvements they can make to lower these levels.

Furthermore, reductions in water use achieved through the Urban Dam Project will be compiled into a national tracking system that will enable participants to see the project's success on a larger scale, involving them in what could be the most successful conservation initiative in the United States. Consumers have the opportunity to become one of the million or so Urban Dams that will be put in place to monitor and slow the flow of water through our country.

For example, let's say Ivana Conserve does everything she can think of to use less water in her home: showers half as long, turns the water off while brushing her teeth, waters her lawn half as much. She should be commended for her enthusiasm, but her efforts are ineffective due to her lack of knowledge.

Meanwhile, a GreenPlumber makes a house-call to Walter Waster, who could not care less about water conservation, but needs to fix a leaky toilet. The GreenPlumber gives Mr. Waster a free water audit after fixing his toilet and informs him of how much water goes through his house on a daily basis. He then introduces Walter to the Urban Dam Project and shows him how much money he could save by simply fixing leaks and installing sink aerators and flow valves. Walter, who happens to be quite a miser, immediately agrees to the relatively inexpensive installs in order to save money a few months down the road. Walter, with the help of a GreenPlumber, is now using much less water than Ivana, and is left with a tracking system and a master plan for future improvements complete with break-even points to encourage him to take the next step. Before you know it, Walter Waster is bragging to one of his friends about how green his house is and his friend becomes the next person to call his local GreenPlumber to ask how he can turn his house into an Urban Dam.

As mentioned earlier, there are three phases included in the Urban Dam master plan. The first phase, included along with the audit, involves the installation of relatively inexpensive water-saving techniques and verification of the integrity of the plumbing system in order to stop and prevent leaks. The second phase, through ongoing communication between water agencies, consumers and plumbers, eventually results in the replacement of household appliances with new high-efficiency models. Finally, the third phase, as alternative technologies are perfected, will aim to install graywater, rainwater and wastewater treatment systems.

The 2008 Olympics has given us a good chance to see how the U.S. stacks up against other countries in personal strength, will, training and perseverance - and we've been tremendously successful. Sadly, however, the same cannot be said when it comes to protecting our natural resources. We have been falling behind other countries that have made water conservation a top priority, and we will continue to do so without a long-term plan that is able to achieve real results.

If other countries can get by with a certain amount of water, then certainly we can do it just as well, if not better, here in the U.S. All we need is a plan. In this country, if we put our minds to it, we can do anything.

Consumers will surely want to be part of the Urban Dam Project because it is easy and inexpensive, and it will provide them with many desirable benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Reduced water bills

  • Increased value and appeal of their home

  • Green bragging rights

  • Ability to be a part of a huge national effort to save one of our most valuable resources

  • Ability to help bring U.S. water use levels down to or below those of leading countries

The GreenPlumbers Urban Dam Project represents a tremendous opportunity for our industry, our nation and our world. It is one of the first conservation initiatives with the ability to effect change by reaching out to and thoroughly involving the end-user. It also will provide plumbers with the opportunity to revamp their business models, change their image, and attract and sustain numerous new clientèle.

Matt Lehtonen is responsible for program development at GreenPlumbers North America. He can be reached by at 888/929-6207, ext. 205, or at [email protected].

COMPARING URBAN WATER USE

Gallons per day per person excluding industrial and agriculture
Note: Data from 2006 except for several cities where only 2007 figures were available (*)

31 UNITED KINGDOM
34 IRAQ
41 GERMANY
47 BRAZIL
50 SAUDI ARABIA
59 SOUTH AFRICA
62 FRANCE
92 MEXICO
97 SAN FRANCISO*
98 JAPAN
102 SEATTLE
127 AUSTRALIA
138 LOS ANGELES*
147 UNITED STATES AVERAGE
153 BAKERSFIELD*
154 SAN DIEGO*
162 SAN JOSE*
164 CALIFORNIA AVERAGE
188 RIO LINDA/ELVERTA WATER DIST.
189 CITY OF DAVIS*
196 CANADA
215 ORANGE VALE WATER CO.
227 LAS VEGAS
239 PLACER CO. WATER AGENCY
248 SACRAMENTO SUB. WATER DIST.
252 CITRUS HEIGHTS WATER DIST.
265 SACRAMENTO COUNTY
268 FAIR OAKS WATER DIST.
273 CITY OF SACRAMENTO
278 CITY OF SACRAMENTO
283 CARMICHAEL WATER DIST.
287 SACRAMENTO METRO AVERAGE
381 FOLSOM
494 SAN JUAN WATER DIST.
Source: Sacramento Water Forum, California Urban Water Conservation Council, Pacific Institute
TAGS: Plumbing