Over the past 50 years, the U.S. population has doubled, but withdrawals from public water supplies have tripled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And while homes play a major roll in water use, the trouble is getting customers to appreciate the environmental urgency, says Cara Kane, director of corporate communications at KB Home.
Last week, KB was singled out among the EPA’s list of 52 WaterSense builder partners by being named the WaterSense Partner of the Year for dedication to water efficiency. The honor stems from the builder’s unveiling of its Springwood community, the country’s first new-home community made up entirely of WaterSense-labeled homes, in November of last year. That community, in Roseville, Calif., has since been joined by two other WaterSense communities KB has built in San Antonio and Orlando, Fla.
Each home in the water-thrifty communities includes WaterSense-labeled plumbing fixtures; a hot water delivery system designed to bring hot water to users more quickly in order to avoid wasting water or energy by storing no more than half a gallon of water between the source and the farthest fixture; landscaping designed to avoid the need for lots of watering; a water-pressure reducing valve; and an Energy Star dishwasher, as well as an indoor plumbing inspection to check for leaks and ensure compliance with WaterSense standards.
While incorporating WaterSense features into all the homes "wasn’t extensively hard," Kane says, "the biggest challenge was to educate buyers on why it was important."
Consumers seem to have a better grasp on energy efficiency, Kane says. "People don’t seem to understand quite as much about how [water] resources are being depleted and how reducing water use can lead to cost savings."
Like many other builders trying to show buyers the benefits of efficiency features, KB has found that the most effective approach is focusing on the bottom line. Throughout KB’s WaterSense models and on its website, KB emphasizes the cash savings buyers can anticipate, including calculations that break things down by examples such as what the household would save each year based on doing X loads of laundry.
While the company doesn’t offer specific dollar amounts for utility savings on the overall home, since much depends on the buyers’ habits, according to EPA estimates, a WaterSense-labeled home can save a family of four 50,000 gallons of water per year—enough water to do 1,200 loads of laundry or take showers for almost a decade.
Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.