The Urgent Need to Address Water Scarcity Through Scientifically Supported Water Conservation Solutions
Considering the rapidly growing population, increased industrialization and the changing climate, implementing water conservation practices now has become imperative to ensure the well-being of our communities.
The issue of water scarcity knows no geographic boundaries; its impact extends to every corner of the world. According to a report conducted by the United Nations, about two billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water, and roughly half the world’s population experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. And these numbers are expected to keep rising as climate projections indicate a further increase in temperatures.
According to a study conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the German Aerospace Center, it is projected that in 2025 over half of the world’s population will reside in water-stressed areas.
Considering the rapidly growing population, increased industrialization and the changing climate, adopting and implementing water conservation practices and policies now has become imperative to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities.
Using Building Codes to Address Water Scarcity
Due to the compounding effects of water scarcity across the world, communities have been searching for solutions that have been scientifically validated.
In an article published by the Arizona Daily Star, Esber Andiroglu, Ph.D., PE, LEED AP, and Associate Professor at the University of Miami, shared how water scarcity is impacting many southwestern U.S. cities and how building codes and standards can play a pivotal role in helping to address the water crisis.
The International Green Construction Code® and the National Green Building Standard, along with specific standards like the CSA B805/ICC 805 – Rainwater Harvesting Standard and RESNET/ICC 850 – Water Use Performance of One- and Two-Family Dwellings Standard, can be implemented to promote water conservation measures such as fixture efficiency, reuse and site management.
The International Code Council continues to develop new solutions to address water scarcity issues including the convening of a water reuse working group to facilitate improving onsite water reuse through the International Residential Code® and the International Plumbing Code® (IPC). The group’s recommendations will be considered during the 2027 International Code® (I-Code) update process, which begins next year.
The Code Council is also currently conducting extensive research to develop two new plumbing standards, ICC 815 – Standard for Sizing Water Distribution, Sanitary Drainage and Vent Piping Systems and ICC 825 – Standard for Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, which will help to address water scarcity.
The Importance of Reliable Information to Address Water Scarcity
Understanding the importance of implementing water scarcity solutions, the University of Miami (UM) recently published a refutation of a report commissioned by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) that incorrectly claimed changing pipe sizing alone generates significant water conservation. No peer-reviewed study has found a direct connection between pipe sizing and water conservation. Consequently, the study’s central premise is inaccurate.
Many additional factors found throughout the report make the results achieved inaccurate, including its multiple missing assumptions:
- ignoring human interactions with fixtures in water savings analysis
- ignoring thermodynamics and diurnal patterns in water savings analysis
- misrepresentation of the housing market in terms of study design
- lack of inclusion of new and advanced water distribution technologies
- restricted studies to just one type of piping material
- lack of discussion on incoming water pressure for referenced layouts
- lack of scientific analysis such as mass and energy balances
- improper assumptions on energy savings
Consequently, the report contains a notable front-page disclaimer from its authors, stating, “This report takes into account the particular instructions and requirements of our client. It is not intended for and should not be relied upon by any third party and no responsibility is undertaken to any third party.“
The University of Miami’s refutation of the report underscores the importance of having accurate information and scientifically supported solutions, such as the I-Codes, to properly address the water crisis.
To learn more about the Code Council’s Plumbing, Mechanical, and Fuel Gas resources, click here.