How much water do new homes consume? No one knows for sure, so EPA and six water districts in the West and three in the South plan to find out. The 10 agencies have announced a 33-month study to collect detailed information about how much water is consumed in “standard” new homes vs. “high-efficiency” new homes.

The $530,000 study will look at water usage by collecting data from billing records, surveys, and meter measurement of usage signifying faucet, clothes washer, toilet and other household uses. EPA will invest $350,000, with the other agencies contributing $20,000 each.

“Better information and technology give homeowners greater choices to save water, money, and streams,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “The water efficiency wave is good news for family budgets and local ecosystems.”

The study will help establish voluntary targets for builders who want to provide buyers with alternate water-efficiency options; develop criteria for water-efficient homes based on water-using products and building design or on average gallons used per resident per day; and create special certification marks to help consumers identify water-efficient new homes. The study results will aid states and water utilities in making local decisions on establishing water-use criteria for new homes, planning water-efficiency programs and projecting future needs.

The project will demonstrate how advanced technologies, such as water-efficient landscape designs; weather-based irrigation controllers; and high-efficiency toilets and faucets can reduce water use below current levels. The study will investigate relationships between household indoor-water use and variables that include the number of residents, home size, and types of fixtures and appliances present. Outdoor water use will be quantified from total annual use, rates of application, local plant water requirements, lot size, landscape design, and type of irrigation system controller.

Water systems involved in the study encompass eight states: Utah, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Florida. The Salt Lake City Water Department will coordinate the effort among the participating state agencies.

Sixty homes will be selected in each city - 40 “standard” and 20 higher efficiency. Researchers will visit participating homeowners to explain the study, install the equipment, and ask a few questions.

It is expected that data gleaned from the study will apply to homes across the country, especially for indoor water use. Outdoor usage will depend on local climate conditions. ASA legislative advocates Kent & O'Connor will be monitoring the progress of the study and will provide periodic updates to members.