Might We Be Using Too Little Water?

Might We Be Using Too Little Water?

That headline probably sounds weird to most of you. It does to me.

Here in drought-plagued Southern California, water conservation has become a way of life. We at Dutton Plumbing have preached it and have installed countless plumbing fixtures, faucets, showerheads and other plumbing devices aimed at reducing water consumption in the home.

The good news is we are becoming a more water-efficient country. A U.S. Geological Survey report, Public Supply and Domestic Water Use in the United States, 2015, confirms that public withdrawals in 2015 were 7% lower than in 2010. A significant contributor to reduced water usage is water-efficient plumbing products that have been tested and listed under the U.S. EPA WaterSense program. Studies have shown savings of thousands of gallons of water per year per household. I’m sure a conservation ethic here in California and other drought-plagued regions has also played a big part.

However, like so many other things in life, something good may hide unintended consequences. Plumbing engineers who serve on the codes and standards bodies that guide our industry in protecting public health have started to raise alarms that in certain circumstances too much water conservation may have harmful effects.

For instance, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) has published a white paper warning that reductions in water usage may be leading to water quality issues due to drinking water remaining too long in pipes, and that declining wastewater flows may lead to increased blockages, odor and pipe corrosion.

So far these are just concerns, not conclusions. Further research is underway by organizations such as the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials and American Society of Mechanical Engineers to learn more and solve any problems that may result from decreased water flows.

It may turn out that there’s nothing to be concerned about, and I’m not in the least suggesting that anyone reverse our water-conservation way of life. I just find it interesting that good intentions can sometimes lead to negative consequences.

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