Why are we at Sloan so focused on water sustainability?
We’ve said it many times before, but we can’t seem to say it enough: fresh water is our most important natural resource. All life depends on it, and the planet only has so much.
In addition to developing water-efficient bathroom products, we encourage all kinds of water-saving practices — especially the ones that connect architects, designers, engineers and building owners with their communities to make sustainability a public priority.
For instance, we were excited to report recently that entire cities can now earn LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
But we’re less than thrilled to hear the latest news from California.
Good news! The drought is over. Now what?
This recent article describes how water use in California rose sharply as soon as the recent drought emergency ended.
During the five-year-long drought from 2012-2016, Californians adopted several measures to conserve water — from lawn-watering restrictions to collecting shower water to flush toilets. Many of these measures were legally imposed, but others were simply the actions of informed citizens doing what they could to help keep a precious resource available.
But after the Sierra Nevada Mountains received 164 percent of their average snowpack last winter, Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought emergency over on April 7, 2017. And water use — which dropped quickly when the emergency was announced in 2014, then continued to decline gradually — rose abruptly:
California will always have water concerns
We get it — collecting shower water to flush toilets is a pain in the rear. We’re not saying everyone has to conserve water every possible way they can. But the end of the drought emergency doesn’t change some basic facts about California’s climate and long-term water challenges:
- California’s average runoff — the difference between precipitation and evaporation in a given time period — hit an all-time low in 2016, down 74% since 1997.
- Large sections of southern California are still considered to be in moderate, severe or even extreme drought.
- Groundwater aquifers generally take as many “wet” years to recover as it took dry years to draw them down — so California still has a ways to go.
Southern California will never have a moist climate. It will never have the vast freshwater reserves of the Great Lakes region. And it will, most likely, continue to host a growing population that requires ever more water.
In other words, the region will always have water concerns, if not emergencies. Water sustainability will always be important.
Sustainability for the long haul
We don’t mean to scold. We’re just disappointed that so many water-saving initiatives — public and private — seem to have lost momentum after one wetter-than-average year.
The KPCC article cited earlier quotes Jelena Hartman, a senior scientist at the State Water Resources Control Board: “As a state there is a lot of work to be done to move away from those short-term emergency conservation measures to something that can be a permanent change.”
We hope California’s architects, designers, engineers and building owners will keep long-term conservation in mind as they create and renovate the next generation of commercial restrooms. And we’ll have the plumbing fixtures they need:
- Waterfree urinals
- Hybrid urinals
- Reclaimed water flushometers
- Dual-flush flushometers
- Sensor-activated faucets
We have lots more ideas for creating water sustainable public buildings. We look forward to helping Californians (and everyone else) build them!
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