Reduce your environmental footprint one strategy at a time.

Water Conservation

Posted on | May 4, 2009 | Comments Off

water1Guess how much a gallon of tap water costs in NYC.

If you guessed $.0055 you are right. That’s just about 1/2 cent per gallon. Makes you wonder why you spend $1.29 for a plastic bottle containing less than a quart of inferior water doesn’t it.

The low cost of good clean water is why its such a hard sell to convince people to make water conservation changes on the basis of payback alone.

NYC is fortunate (so far) to receive more than an adequate supply of good fresh water from the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds. However, increasing consumption and aging infrastructure are putting pressure on the water delivery system.

City water reduction measures have reduced consumption by 25% since 1991 including a very successful toilet rebate program, switching out 1,300,000 3.5-gal toilets to 1.6-gal toilets, reducing water and wastewater demands by 7% city-wide.

In addition, the amount of raw sewage required to be treated/processed is also steadily increasing, along with the severity of rainstorms, which puts excess pressure on the city’s combined sewer system leading to sewage backups in basements and raw sewage being dumped into our waterways.

Globally, with population growth and rising living standards in many parts of the world exacerbated by the impact of climate change, our watersheds and infrastructure are under greater pressure and strain in supplying us with clean potable water. Reducing our waterfootprint is becoming an imperative.

The good news is that water conservation is moving further to the front of public consciousness and there is a steadily growing number of strategies you can employ to use less water.

For starters, these are some simple, relatively low-cost measures you can implement.

* Plant native and drought resistant plants.


Native Plants

* Don’t use drinking water to water your plants, harvest rainwater in a rainbarrel for landscape irrigation.



* Make sure there are aerators in your kitchen and bathroom sink faucets.
* Eat local, less water-intensive food options.
* And of course, turn off the water when brushing your teeth.

For some slightly more ambitious measures:


Dual-flush toilet

Install low flow plumbing fixtures: low flow and dual flush toilets are now capable achieving 1.6 or 0.8 gallons per flush – 1/3 better than toilets a generation ago and mandated in many areas. Low flow shower heads also reduce water use significantly.

While they’re certainly more expensive, and tend to require more maintenance, cisterns are good for rainwater catchment and storing and reusing greywater – the wastewater from showers, bathtubs, dishwashers, and laundry.

Dry wells and pervious paving are effective for slowing down the rate of stormwater runoff that makes its way into our local groundwater.


Pervious Paving

Installing foot controls at sinks also reduces water usage and is much more sanitary than hand controls.

foot-controlled sink faucet

foot-controlled sink faucet

The relatively low cost and ease of implementing most of these methods certainly aren’t indicative of their impact. Widespread adoption of these measures can have a profound impact on our overall water usage.

The necessity of reducing our waterfootprints and finding ways to make clean drinking water accessible to more people can’t be overstated.


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Established in 1999, Ellen Honigstock Architect PC is a full-service architecture and energy auditing firm based in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Our solutions are environmentally conscious and the criteria we use are based on national standards developed to bring long-term saving, efficiency and well-being to our clients. Over 35 years combined experience building in New York City gives us an edge in meeting tough schedules and navigating the city's complicated requirements.

About Ellen:

As the Residential Green Building Advocate for the Urban Green Council since 2007, Ellen has been promoting sustainability in the residential marketplace in NYC.

In the position of Chair of the Homes Subcommittee the NYC Greening the Codes Task Force, Ellen has been heavily involved in recommending new green policy in NYC as related to updating building codes, rules and regulations.

Ellen teaches Building Science, Building Envelope, Water Conservation, Indoor Air Quality, Quantifying Energy and Green Building Plans at the 1,000 Green Supers program for The SEIU Local 32 BJ Thomas Shortman Training Fund.

Registered Architect, NY, NJ, CT
LEED Accredited Professional
BPI Certifications:
Building Analyst
Energy Efficient Building Operator
Multi-Family Building Analyst

Ellen Honigstock, LEED AP
Ellen Honigstock Architect PC
45 Main Street #806
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(212) 228-1585


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