The WaterSense Current Spring 2012
Issue XXII, Spring 2012
In This Issue:
Think Outside the (Flower) Box: Localize Your Landscape
April showers might bring May flowers, but that doesn’t mean your garden needs a hefty drink of water to quench its blooming thirst. Put yourself ahead of Mother Nature’s unpredictable curve this spring with a water-smart, localized landscape design that celebrates your region’s beautiful, low-maintenance plants and saves water and time.
Of the estimated 29 billion gallons of water used daily by households in the United States, at least 30 percent is attributed to outdoor water use (See “Water Droplets” at right), most of which is for watering lawns and gardens. Planting grasses and flower species local to your region, however, can require less water to supplement normal rainfall. Because they are adapted to local soils and climatic conditions, these regionally appropriate plants are also more resistant to pests and diseases than other species, so you can maintain a beautiful yard with fewer chemicals.
Everything you need to create a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape is just a click away:
- The WaterSense What to Plant finder makes planning your water-smart garden a breeze. The online compilation of state, city, and county specific planting resources makes it easy for both first-time gardeners and seasoned green thumbs to identify plants that are low water-using or drought-tolerant.
- Landscaping gurus who want to ensure their gardens will really use less water can use the WaterSense Interactive Water Budget Tool before breaking ground. This online tool shows how a landscape design can reduce its water requirements by using local weather data. All you need is a few minutes, your zip code, and your yard size.
- Need more inspiration? Browse the eye candy found in the WaterSense Water-Efficient Landscape Photo Gallery to see the beautiful possibilities.
To select the best plants for your climate, ask your garden center about local varieties of these popular drought-tolerant perennials.
- Purple Coneflower: This hardy plant loves to lure butterflies with its purple and lavender flowers surrounding a reddish-orange, cone-like center.
- Yarrow: White, yellow, pink, and red flat flower clusters bloom atop this fern-like foliage. Even better? Native varieties are abundant throughout the United States.
- Columbine: Available in a variety of colors from red and yellow to deep blue, this native perennial can add a delicate splash of color to your landscape.
- Black-Eyed Susan: Add a little sunshine to your foliage with these bright yellow, daisy-like blooms that can serve as great border plants or colorful accents in a cottage garden.
Before you start planting, organize your landscape into hydrozones by grouping plants with similar watering needs, then only water each zone to its specific requirements. Minimize steep slopes, which can cause erosion and runoff. In areas where slopes can’t be avoided, plant selections with deeper roots to help reduce erosion.
Even if you’re not planting new flowers, you can tend to your lawn in a more water-smart manner. Longer grass welcomes deeper root growth, making it more drought-resistant. So be sure to raise your lawn mower blade, especially under the hot summer sun. Not only do taller grass heights reduce evaporation by shading surrounding blades of grass, but they also minimize weed growth. Using mulch around plantings also reduces evaporation and weed growth, with the added bonus of moderating soil temperature and minimizing erosion.
So this spring, localize your landscape—you’ll water less frequently and have more time to enjoy the view! Visit the WaterSense website for more tips on water-efficient landscapes.
Drips Nipped Nationwide for Fix a Leak Week 2012
The fourth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 12 through 18, 2012, generated real results and widespread public interest about finding and fixing leaks. Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year, so fixing leaks provides savings in terms of both water and money.
WaterSense partners across the country held events to educate consumers on finding and fixing leaks. Delta Faucet Company worked with EPA regional offices and GreenPlumbers USA, United Way, Ronald McDonald House, and various water utilities and city governments to fix leaks and install WaterSense labeled showerheads and faucet aerators in more than 1,000 low-income homes and community facility units in nine cities.
Fourth and fifth graders in Charleston, West Virginia were deputized as "leak detectives" to find leaks in their homes. In Athens, Georgia, volunteers from area churches and faith-based organizations were trained on how to perform water conservation audits at community organizations and educate residents on how to fix leaks in their homes. The town of Cary, North Carolina, distributed dye tabs to detect toilet leaks and created an interactive water conservation game featuring ladybugs to teach kids about saving water.
Central Arkansas Water offered free leak repairs for low-income customers, as well as free rain gauges and WaterSense labeled showerheads for customers who stopped by the utility offices. Colorado Springs Utilities also offered WaterSense labeled showerheads and faucet aerators to their customers.
Fix a Leak Week gained online popularity in 2012. WaterSense held a one-hour Twitter party March 12 to kick off the week, and during that time, the hashtag #fixaleak trended second in the United States! Leading up to and during the week, #fixaleak was used more than 1,000 times as people around the country discussed the importance of fixing leaks, how to fix leaks, and what they were doing to participate. WaterSense manufacturer partner Hansgrohe gave away free WaterSense labeled showerheads to the first 250 Facebook users who answered the question, "What does water mean to you and how do you save it?"
Find out more information about fixing leaks around the home.
The Future of WaterSense Labeled Homes Is Here
Imagine living in a futuristic community where your water use is 70 percent lower than average, your carbon footprint registers neutral, and your townhome consumes zero net energy. In Issaquah, Washington, this idyllic scenario is already a reality. Sixteen miles east of Seattle, zHome unveiled a 14,000-square-foot townhome development with 10 units that redefined the limits of sustainable housing and earned the WaterSense label in January 2012. The zHome development was also the first community of homes that Portland, Oregon’s Earth Advantage Institute, a new WaterSense licensed certification provider partner, certified as WaterSense labeled.
A WaterSense labeled new home can save a family of four $600 on annual utility costs and 50,000 gallons of water per year, or the amount it takes to wash 2,000 loads of laundry.
“People are fairly blown away that we can achieve this level of sustainability at the price points we’ve managed,” says zHome Project Manager Brad Liljequist.
The 2010 WaterSense Promotional Partner of the Year, Cascade Water Alliance, provided the units’ WaterSense labeled toilets, showerheads, and bathroom faucets, as well as real-time monitors to track each unit’s water use. The townhomes’ dual-flush toilets use 31 percent less water than standard models. And compared to conventional appliances, zHome’s high-efficiency dishwashers use 73 percent less water, while the washing machines use about 55 percent less.
Outside each unit, cisterns ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 gallons in size catch rainwater and recycle enough water to flush residents’ toilets and wash their clothes year-round. The landscaping in the zHome community features drought-tolerant plants that don’t require watering once established, as well as compost-rich soil that helps reduce runoff and retain water for a higher soil quality.
One unit, donated to a nonprofit organization by Howland Homes, has been used as model where tours are held. “zHome has always been about creating a replicable model of what green housing can look like,” Liljequist says.
New Life in New Jersey
Another community that will include homes striving to earn the WaterSense label is underway in Camden, New Jersey. As part of the Nueva Vida Homes III project, 12 new single-family homes slated to be built in Camden’s Cramer Hill neighborhood will be designed with water efficiency in mind. The development is funded by a Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit grant of $750,000 from New Jersey American Water, a WaterSense utility partner.
“Future homeowners who will live in Nueva Vida homes will have state-of-the-art houses that not only look beautiful and have WaterSense, but will also help them save money,” says Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd.
Find out more information on WaterSense labeled new homes.
Partner Profile: KB Home
As a leading builder of WaterSense labeled homes , 2011 Builder Partner of the Year KB Home made history in November 2010 when homes it built in Roseville, California, became the first in the nation to earn the WaterSense label.
"We are proud that our residents will be among the first to benefit from these homes designed to conserve water," Roseville Mayor Gina Garbolino said when the homes were completed, adding that companies like KB Home help drive citywide innovation.
KB Home didn’t stop its water-efficient building efforts at the Roseville city limits. The Fortune 500 builder offers WaterSense labeled new homes in communities from Orlando, Florida, to Austin, Texas, and installs WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures in all of the thousands of homes it builds in the United States each year. Displays highlighting WaterSense are posted in KB Home’s sales offices, and homebuyers can select WaterSense labeled products as part of the company’s Built to Order™ program.
"Water conservation has been an important part of our environmental sustainability efforts for many years," says Dan Bridleman, senior vice president of KB Home’s Sustainability, Technology and Strategic Sourcing.
The company’s commitment to water efficiency even extends outside the home, as demonstrated by a water-smart landscaping guide that KB Home’s Architecture Department prepared. As a result, in 2010, all of KB’s Home’s divisions used local plants for landscaping their model homes, reducing the amount of water needed to maintain curb appeal.
KB Home also promotes WaterSense among its customer base throughout the sales and building processes. The KB Home studio invites consumers to meet with personal design consultants inside its retail-like showroom while they browse WaterSense labeled products and additional water-efficient features.
Learn more about KB Home and its efforts to promote WaterSense.
Partner Profile: Energy Inspectors
Energy Inspectors® is dedicated to ensuring that American homes operate efficiently. The Las Vegas, Nevada-based company inspects and certifies thousands of water- and energy-efficient homes each year, performs energy efficiency ratings in 18 states, and collaborates with more than 350 of the nation’s leading home builders on new construction projects.
Energy Inspectors became a WaterSense licensed certification provider partner in 2010, adding water-efficient homes to its green building certification portfolio. Beyond certifying new homes to the WaterSense specification, Energy Inspectors also educates the entire green building industry about the indoor and outdoor components of WaterSense labeled new homes.
The company’s collaboration with WaterSense 2011 Builder Partner of the Year KB Home exemplifies its commitment to industry partnerships. In 2010, Energy Inspectors and KB Home teamed up to build and certify the first WaterSense labeled new home in the country. The partnership will result in an entire community of WaterSense labeled new homes being built in Roseville, California.
Not only does Energy Inspectors collaborate with WaterSense builder partners, the company also educates plumbers and landscape irrigation professionals on WaterSense criteria and trains inspectors to certify WaterSense labeled new homes. Trainees are required to perform a full inspection of a model home using the WaterSense Labeled New Home Inspection Checklist before heading out to do the real thing. This ensures that the inspectors perform their role as accurately and efficiently as possible.
In addition to being named the 2011 WaterSense Licensed Certification Provider Partner of the Year, Energy Inspectors recently received EPA recognition through a 2012 ENERGY STAR® Sustained Excellence Award and a 2011 airPLUS Leadership Award.
Learn more about Energy Inspectors and its support for the WaterSense labeled new homes program.