Facilities Toolbox: Sustainability Tools
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What fixtures and methods increase water efficiency?

Photo of a waterless urinal.

The six waterless urinals at MTDC
save 60,000 gallons of water
each year.

Unit: Missoula Technology and
Development Center

Faucets and fixtures that conserve water are the norm for new construction. Their effectiveness has improved dramatically from the early days of low-flow toilets that required multiple flushes and flow-restricted showerheads that barely dribbled water. The Forest Service intranet site Sustainable/Green Buildings—Water (Web site available only to FS and BLM employees) contains links to water conservation and water harvesting information.

Water efficient showerheads and faucet aerators use less than 2.5 gallons per minute. Check the packaging or manufacturer's information to make sure you're buying low-flow products.

Faucets that are controlled by infrared sensors can save a lot of water and water-heating energy over time in high-use restrooms. Photovoltaic sensor faucets that are powered by indoor lighting eliminate the need for batteries or an electric connection.

Waterless urinals don't flush. Instead, urine flows to the sewer line through a trap that prevents sewer vapors from escaping into the air. Waterless urinals must be maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations for satisfactory performance.

Photo of a composting toilet restroom.

This composting toilet serves
Sunshine Campground.

Forest: GMUG
District: Gunnison
Region: 2

Low-flow toilets are available with pressure flush, dual flush, air assist, vacuum flush, and gravity flush in all price ranges. There are differences in effectiveness among low-flow toilets, so make sure you specify a model with good performance.

Composting toilets are the ultimate water-saving plumbing device. They work well in all but the coldest climates, but their maintenance is labor intensive.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Water Sense program and the Federal Energy Management Program's Federal Water Efficiency Best Management Practices Web sites contain good information about water efficiency. The Forest Service intranet site Water Conserving Fixtures and Products (Web site available only to FS and BLM employees) contains links to information on low flow toilets, waterless urinals, and composting toilets.

Rainwater harvesting may be cost effective in areas with high water costs or a limited water supply. Simple rainwater harvesting systems just collect rain that comes off the roof, separate dirt and debris, and use the water to irrigate the landscape. More complex systems can be used for flushing toilets, fire protection, or even potable water. More information about rainwater harvesting is available at Montana State University and from the Texas Water Development Board.

To improve the water efficiency of existing buildings, see the information in the Landscaping and Site, Water Conserving Plumbing, and Rainwater Harvesting sections of Incrementally Greener—Improving Sustainability Over Time Through Operations and Maintenance (Optional link for FSweb users).