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Responsible Bathroom Water Conservation Tour

May 7, there were approximately 50 visitors that showed up for the Responsible Bathroom Water Conservation Tour in Nashua. This event was sponsored by American Standard, and took place at F.W. Webb on Redmond Street. So who attended and why did they go?

A mix of plumbers, builders, architects and consumers stopped by to learn more about water conserving technology. In addition, the Mayor, Donnalee Lozeau, stopped by with an additional representative from the local school board to walk through the mobile showroom.

The main purpose: To properly evaluate consumer choices about really saving water. At this point in time, most educated consumers are used to seeing EnergyStar labels on big appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, and freezers.

Now - don't flush - it's time to start expecting similar efficiency labels for toilets. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency actually rolled out its WaterSens labeling program a few years back, said Derek Bennett, who manages the state environmental department's water use and conservation program.

The WaterSense label indicates that certain toilets - along with faucets - meet certifiable performance and efficiency standards.

Did you know that there are more than 500 tank toilets and 1,650 faucets on the market now carrying the WaterSense label? Bennett said, with certified urinals and shower heads expected to do the same this year.

Consumers have been lax in striving to save water through such fixtures; most have not started purchasing all the products out there that can save money and energy, like the coiled energy-efficient light bulbs.

Bennett believes that we are not there yet, but he isn't entirely sure why, other than the theory that water generally isn't like other commodities in regard to supply and demand.

Bennett made an example of New Hampshire, which is considered water rich, and is known as the Granite State, they receive an average of 45 inches of precipitation a year. Just because people don't put water conservation at the forefront, doesn't mean we shouldn't do all we can to conserve anyway.

What would it take for us to conserve by choice? Possibly something major, like a drought, might stimulate folks to water conservation through their bathroom purchases. If you do the math, it is very convincing.

Prior to the Energy Policy Act of 1992, most toilets used 3.5 gallons of water per flush. The act sets a standard flush of 1.6 gallons per use. These days, toilets that use 1.28 gallons per flush are considered efficient and eligible for the WaterSense label.

To make the case: A household that switches from a 3.5-gallon toilet to a 1.28-gallon toilet will save around 11,000 gallons of water a year. (This is based on the census average of 2.64 people per household, each of whom flushes an average of 5.1 times a day.)

So, what does that mean for your wallet?

Using New Hampshire again as an example, the average price for water utility services in New Hampshire is $500 a household, Bennett said. Installing a WaterSense-marked toilet would save about $64 a year. And with efficient toilets starting around $130, the payback is a year or two. Beyond the cost savings, Bennett added that there are also some serious energy implications for buying efficient products. And in turn, it takes enormous amounts of energy to pump and treat water. That scenario can be especially draining for people with their own wells.

There are many other additional reasons to be concerned about water conservation. These would include discretionary water use, such as lawn irrigation, a serious water-sucking activity that doesn't seem to be slowing down; climate change, which may cause more droughts and floods that would affect the water supply; old, leaking pipes that aren't being replaced as often as they should; and population growth, thereby increasing demand for water.

Unlike some energy-efficient practices replacing windows and doors is an example Bennett isn't aware of any federal rebates available to consumers for toilets, faucets or fixtures. There are some in some cities around the nation for particular products and installation of water conservation products, but by and large they are few and far between.

Bennett indicated that he would like to institute a state grant program that manages rebates, but there's no money in the budget for that right now. An additional option might be local source water protection grants, which for which watershed associations could apply and offer as rebates to locals.

In the meantime, Bennett agrees that it's important to stress the cumulative impacts of water conservation for everyone, not just for Joe Home-owner. The real value is if Joe Homeowner and his neighbors (employ efficiency measures), small steps can make a huge difference.

Here's an example of a big step: The state department of environmental services just completed a full-scale replacement with 62 new efficient toilets, 28 waterless or low-flow urinals and 70 low-flow faucets. The department expects to conserve 1.8 million gallons of water, which shakes out to about $13,000 a year in water and sewer bills. That is real savings. What if every business could do that?

So, this last week, a 44-foot mobile showroom visited F.W. Webb Co., one of 300 planned stops nationwide. Some 50 visitors, plumbers, builders and architects attended. What they took home with them was an eye opener about how important each one of us is in implementing conservation on a more personal level.

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Atlas Plumbing replaced a sewer line which had corroded under the house and broken. Using a camera, the they showed us it was corroded, broken and had roots in it. We got 3 bids, with Atlas having provided us with a most satisfactory explanation.
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