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Renovation & Design

MIKE HOLMES: Be water smart

It's the elixir of life, and you can conserve it

Postmedia/A cistern is installed on a residential property to store rainwater diverted from the home's roof, eavestroughs and downspouts. This water will be used for watering the lawn, washing vehicles and flushing toilets.
Postmedia/Adding a cistern is a fairly involved process, but the benefits exceed the effort.

Earth has a limited amount of water. That means we have to learn to make it last for everyone, because it can't be replaced.

World Water Day was March 22. Why should we care about World Water Day? Because in some parts of the world, we're using water faster than it can be replaced, and this is having a massive impact not just on our water supplies, but also on our food and sources of energy.

It takes a lot of water to produce much of the power we use every day, such as hydroelectric, nuclear and thermal. We use water to power turbines and generate electricity (sometimes as steam). We use water to cool thermal and nuclear reactors.

The other side of that equation is about eight per cent of all the energy generated worldwide is used to pump, treat and transport water to consumers.

So we're burning the candle at both ends, using water to generate electricity, then using electricity to transport, treat and pump water. Does this really make sense? It might have 50 or 70 years ago, but not anymore.

We need better ways to maintain our homes, because once our water supply starts drying up, it's game over.

I've been saying it for years: Housing has to be sustainable. Future communities have to be sustainable. We don't have a choice. It's that simple.

As a builder and renovator, sustainability has become the name of my game. Every time I approach a reno, a new build, a new community, I'm thinking of how we can make the homes more energy-efficient, which includes smart ways to use water.

As a homeowner, there are plenty of things you can do to help, too. For one, understand that saving energy saves water, and saving water saves energy.

Only about 10 per cent of clean water is used for drinking or cooking. The rest gets used for showers, baths, laundry, watering lawns and gardens and washing cars. Do our cars really need to be washed with drinking-quality water? Or how about our toilets? My dog Charlie might appreciate having drinking-quality water in the throne, but Mother Nature doesn't -- it's a royal flush of good water.

One smart water solution you might want to consider is incorporating a grey-water recovery system in your home.

Grey water is used water that's been treated and filtered, then used for such functions as flushing toilets, watering the lawn, washing the car and doing laundry. It can't be used for drinking, showering or bathing. You can also have a greywater system that collects only rainwater from your gutters and downspouts.

According to Environment Canada, toilets use one-third of a household's total water consumption. That's 33 per cent of the average household's water bill. A grey-water system in a house, used to flush toilets and water lawns, could save about 150 litres of drinking water per day per household. When you start crunching the numbers, that works out to a heck of a lot of water.

Each municipality has different rules when it comes to grey water, so check with your local authorities on where they stand.

Another option is to hire a licensed plumber to fix any leaks in your home's plumbing. The average home can lose 7,500 to 75,000 litres of water just because of leaks.

Or how about adding a green roof or installing a domestic hot-water recovery system?

Green roofs have some type of plants or greenery covering parts of the roof or the entire area. They're environmentally friendly, help manage stormwater runoff, which reduces the amount of pollutants that enter our water systems, and can help homeowners save money on heating and cooling costs because they provide some insulation.

A hot-water recovery system recaptures the heat from hot water that's already been used as it goes down the drain -- for instance from showers, washing dishes and laundry. It then uses this water to preheat water going into the hot-water tank.

Everyone has a role when it comes to taking care of our home and the Earth, and using our water sensibly is one really big way we can all make a difference and make it right.

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

 

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