Why We Track Water Use
By Rachel White
A few days ago I was driving to a meeting when I passed a familiar summer sight: an irrigation system watering a little bit of grass and a lot of pavement. When I was driving back from the meeting the system was still running—and still sending most of its water down a storm drain. I found myself wondering how much water was consumed during that hour.
Greater Bostonians are fortunate to live in a water-rich region. We receive upwards of 40" of rain annually and our drinking water supply is reliable, clean and secure. It's easy for us to take water for granted, especially if we reside in MWRA communities.
So does it matter how much water we use? At Byggmeister we think it does, if only because of the high incidence—and high price—of water waste. A few years back we did some research and made some depressing discoveries about residential water use including:
Leaks account for 12-14% of indoor water use and 4% of overall use, amounting to roughly 20 gallons per day in the average house (Analysis of Water Use in New Single Family Homes).
The average MA resident consumes 55 gallons of water a day indoors, which is about 20 gallons more than is possible with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances (MA Water Conservation Standards).
New homes tend to use more water than older homes, because, despite their more efficient indoor fixtures, they use more water for irrigation (Analysis of Water Use in New Single Family Homes).
This research motivated us to start tracking water use at many of the homes we work on using Wegowise, the same online system we use for tracking energy use. Our objective was twofold: first, to quantify savings from high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and water-using appliances; and second, to help our clients identify water waste.
While we haven't made much progress on the first objective (in large part because we typically only change over a small number of fixtures at one time), we've been completely blown away by the amount of waste we've identified—including at my own house.
Last fall, I was socked with a $1300 water bill for a three-month usage of 58,000 gallons. That's roughly 645 gallons a day. During the same three-month period the year before my usage was less than 1/4 that. Why was my usage so high last fall? Because I had a leak in my irrigation system.
We also recently discovered anomalous usage at another home: a 3-family house saw its monthly usage shoot up from 12,000 gallons a month ($180) to over 30,000 gallons a month ($540). The culprit there turned out to be leaky toilets.
We're also learning that the root cause of anomalous usage isn't always a leak. Sometimes a poorly managed irrigation system can use so much water it looks like there's a leak but there isn't.
If you're concerned about high usage at your house, please get in touch. We'd be happy to add you to our tracking program. Because even though we live in a water-rich region, water is too vital and too expensive to waste.