Water efficiency

Water efficiency is reducing water wastage by measuring the amount of water required for a particular purpose and the amount of water used or delivered.[1] Water efficiency differs from water conservation in that it focuses on reducing waste, not restricting use.[2] Solutions for water efficiency focus not only on reducing the amount of potable water used, but also on reducing the use of non-potable water where appropriate (i.e. flushing toilet, watering landscape, etc.).[3] It also emphasises the influence consumers can have in water efficiency by making small behavioural changes to reduce water wastage and by choosing more water efficient products.

Examples of water efficient steps includes fixing leaking taps, taking showers rather than baths, installing displacements devices inside toilet cisterns, and using dishwashers and washing machines with full loads. These are things that fall under the definition of water efficiency, as their purpose is to obtain the desired result or level of service with the least necessary water.[1]


According to the Second UN World Water Development Report, if present levels of consumption continue, two-thirds of the global population will live in areas of water stress by 2025.[4] Increasing human demand for water coupled with the effects of climate change mean that the future of our water supply is not secure. As of now, 2.6 billion people do not have safe drinking water. Added to this, are the changes in climate, population growth and lifestyles. The changes in human lifestyle and activities require more water per capita. This tightens the competition for water amongst agricultural, industrial, and human consumption.[5]


In most countries, people have recognized this growing water scarcity problem. Water efficiency, while not yet a major priority in the agendas of governments, has been a growing concern. Global organizations like the World Water Council,[5] the International Water Management Institute,[6] and UNESCO[7] have been promoting water efficiency alongside water conservation.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency, Waterwise, the California Urban Water Conservation Council, and Smart WaterMark in Australia, and the WaterBucket in Canada are some non-governmental organizations that promote or support water efficiency at national and regional levels.

Governmental organisations such as Environment Canada, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environment Agency in the United Kingdom, the Department of the Environment and Water Resources in Australia, among others, have recognized and created policies and strategies to raise water efficiency awareness. US EPA created its WaterSense program to encourage water efficiency in the United States through the use of a special label on consumer products.

The People's Republic of China has put forward a 5-year plan (2010-2015) at a cost of Y500 billion ($78.1 billion) to Y600 billion ($93.7 billion) to upgrade most of the 4,000 water plants in China. The government hopes these steps will help to better conserve water and meet demands.[8]

The Indian state of Haryana, has implemented State Rural Water Policy 2012; under this policy individual household metered connections would be provided to 50% of the rural population by 2017, to stop water wastage in villages.[9]

A part of the industry sector has also recognised the benefits of water efficiency. Such journals as the Water Efficiency Journal[10] from the US, Water Efficient Solutions Journal[11] and Water Energy and Environment[12] Magazine from the UK, all mainly directed towards the industrial and professional sectors, attest to the growing consciousness of the need to develop more water efficient solutions.

Water efficient solutions


Here are some simple ways to be more water efficient at home

  • Turning off the tap while brushing teeth - a running tap can waste over six liters per minute.
  • Putting a displacement device into the toilet cistern.
  • Installing aerators or flow reducer (NFR) of less flow on taps/faucet and reducing water wastage.
  • Installing water efficient showers in bathrooms for bathing.
  • Fixing dripping taps. A dripping tap wastes thousands of litres of water a year.
  • Using a full load in the dishwasher and washing machine. A person should be sure to buy a water efficient model when buying a new machine.
  • Having a short shower instead of a bath.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables in a bowl rather than under a running tap.
  • Using the leftover water to feed houseplants.
  • Using a watering can or a hosepipe with a trigger nozzle instead of a sprinkler.
  • Using a bucket and sponge when washing the car rather than a running hosepipe.
  • Using little amounts of water at every time
  • Washing clothing or linens in washing machines rather than washing by hand

Consumers can also voluntarily or with utility or government incentives or mandates purchase water-efficient appliances, such as low-flush toilets and front-loading washers. Greywater can be recycled for toilet flushing or garden use.


According to Savewater!, these are solutions useful to manufacturers:[13]

  • Identifying and eliminating wastage (such as leaks) and inefficient processes (such as continual spray devices on stop-start production lines). This may be the most low cost area for water savings, as it involves minimal capital outlay. Savings can be made through implementing procedural changes, such as cleaning plant areas with brooms rather than water.
  • Changing processes and plant machinery. A retrofit of key plant equipment may increase efficiency. Alternatively, upgrades to more efficient models can be factored into planned maintenance and replacement schedules.
  • Reusing wastewater. As well as saving on mains water, this option may improve the reliability of supply, whilst reducing trade waste charges and associated environmental risks.

Waterless products

  • Using waterless car wash products to wash cars, boats, motorcycles and bicycles. This could save up to 150 gallons of water per wash.


According to US EPA, here are some ideas for communities and utilities:[14]

  • Implementing a water-loss management program (e.g. locate and repair leaks).
  • Utilities should strive for universal metering.
  • Ensuring that fire hydrants are tamper proof.
  • Equipment changes - Setting a good example by using water efficient equipment.
  • Installing faucet aerators and low flow shower heads in municipal buildings.
  • Replace worn out plumbing fixtures, appliances and equipment with water-saving models.
  • Minimizing the water used in space cooling equipment in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations. Shut off cooling units when not needed.

Utilities can also modify their billing software to track customers who have taken advantage of various utility sponsored water conservation initiatives (toilet rebates, irrigation rebates, etc.) to see which initiatives provide the greatest water savings for the least cost.

Water policies and impact assessments

Environmental policies and the difference usages of models that are generated by these enforcements can have significant impacts on the society. Hence, improving policies regarding environmental justice issues often require local government's decision making, public awareness, and significant amount of scientific tools. Furthermore, it is important to understand that positively impacting policy decisions require more than good intentions, and they necessitate analysis of risk-related information along with consideration of economic issues, ethical and moral principles, legal precedents, political realities, cultural beliefs, societal values, and bureaucratic impediments.[15] Also, ensuring that the rights of people regardless of their age, race, and backgrounds are being protected should not be neglected according to "The Role of Cumulative risk Assessment in Decisions about Environmental Justice." Also, the article suggests that if a policy protects the natural environment but negatively affects those who in the reach of the enforcement of the policy, that policy is subjected to revaluation.[15] Researchers suggests racial and socioeconomic disparities in exposure to environmental hazards describing the demographic composition of areas and their proximity to hazardous sites.[16] Then, any improvements of a social policy and models that are generated by these improvements should reflect the policy-makers' and researchers' environmental justice beliefs. Therefore, researches and social changes should examine the promises and pitfalls associated with the environmental justice struggles, explore implications of proposed solutions, and recognize the fact that tools necessary to sufficiently carry preceding requirements are yet underdeveloped.[17]

Water policies and impact assessments with different cases


A) Reef Plan (Australia)

The Reef Plan started as an attempt to come up with a new ways to create models that integrate environmental, economical, and social consequences.[18] Pre-existing Australian water policies were often criticizes previous models for focusing too much on investment prioritization and economic dimensions when it came to policy impact assessment. However, the policy makers and researchers in Australia now suggest that "sustainability focused policy requires multi-dimensional indicators" that combine different disciplines.[18] The Reef Plan allows the policy makers to identify issues relating to Reef water quality and implement management strategies and actions to conserve and rehabilitate areas such as riparian zones and wetlands.[19] With the Reef Plan, Nine strategies were implemented in the Great Barrier Reef region. They include self-management approaches, education and extension, economic incentives, planning for natural resources management and land use, regulatory frameworks, research and information sharing, partnership, priorities and targets, and monitoring and evaluation.[18] And such improvements invoked benefits such as:

  1. more comprehensive picture of the policy impacts. New models projected possible outcomes of different simulation of the proposed policies under various circumstances. In addition, they provided the optimal decisions to be made regarding each outcome through the usage of what is known as computable general equilibrium (CGE) which “integrate dynamics on a catchment scale”[18][19]
  2. helping the aggregation of both economics aspects of water and non-monetary elements of water usage.[18][19]
  3. acknowledging the fact that farm production should depend on the global dynamics[18][19]

B) Conserved Water Statutes(United States)

Conserved Water Statutes are state policies that were enacted by California, Montana, Washington, and Oregon to conserve water and allocated water resources to meet the needs of increasing demand for water in the dry lands where irrigation is or was occurring. Conserved Water Statutes helps the states to dismiss the disincentives to conserve water and can do so without damaging pre-existing water rights.[20] Because any extra amount of water after applying water to a beneficiaries of the pre-existing water policies does not belong to the appropriators, such a condition creates an incentive to use as much water as possible rather than saving.[20][21] This obviously causes costs of irrigation to be greater than the optimal amount which makes the policy very inefficient. However, by enacting Conserved Water Statutes, state legislatures are able to address the disincentives to save water.[20] The policy allows the appropriators to have rights over the surplus water and enforces them to verify their water savings by the water resources department.[20] Out of the four states that adapted the Conserved Water Statutes, Oregon is often renowned to be the most successful.[20] According to "How Expanding The Productivity of Water Rights Could Lessen Our Water Woes," Oregon’s Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) has been a success because a high percentage of submitted applications submitted, and the OWRD serves as a good intermediaries that help appropriators to conserve water. OWRD’s programs are not only a success because its effectiveness but also because of their efforts to improve the workers’ working conditions.[20][21] According to OWRD's website, the state policies regarding the water rights are divided into Cultural Competency, Traditional Health Worker, Coordinated Care Organizations, and Race, Ethnicity and Language Data Collection.[21]

C) Water pollution in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the citizens have been experiencing harms from water pollutants in the river that have been accumulating over decades due to fast growing urbanization and industrialization.[22] The planners of Malaysia have been trying to coming up with models that indicate the amount of pollutants has grown over time as cities became more industrialized and how these chemicals are distributed in various regions with the usage of econometrics and various scientific tools.[22] Such an attempt is encourages in-depth researches because sources should be able to analyzed numerically and give economic evaluations while also evaluating the environment.[23] With abundance of evidences provided by models which reveal the inadequacy of current policies, the Malaysian decisions-makers now recognize that appropriate treatments are necessary in regions that are industrialized to protect the residents from water pollutants.[22][24] As a result, the government seeks to increase public awareness and provide affordable water services to residents by year 2020.[24]

Benefits of impact assessments

Successful policies and assessments integrate environmental, economical, and social consequences which provides better models and potential future improvements of the policies. Understanding the importance of water policies and impact assessments is a crucial part of both water justice and environmental justice issues. Not only does it help to protect the quality of water but also the quality of living for humans who are directly affected by the environment.

In addition, successful policies goes beyond water issues. Beneficial policies that are intended to benefit the general public touches upon subjects such as transportation and other environmental policies that may have significant impact on the surrounding environment.[25] Instead of mere cost-benefit analysis, decisions are made so that they account for the priorities of the people.[25]

Notable benefits of impact assessments is as follows:

  • comprehensive picture of the policy impacts. New models projected possible outcomes of different simulation of the proposed policies under various circumstances. In addition, they provided the optimal decisions to be made regarding each outcome through the usage of what is known as computable general equilibrium (CGE) which “integrate dynamics on a catchment scale”[18][19]
  • aggregation of both economics aspects of water and non-monetary elements of water usage.[18][19]
  • acknowledging the fact that farm production should depend on the global dynamics.[18][19]
  • Protection of the human rights of the workers and improvements in working conditions.[20][21]
  • Provision of data that can be analyzed in terms of the economy, health impacts, and recognition of the need for appropriate treatments.[22][24]

See also


  1. Vickers, Amy. “Water Use and Conservation.” Amherst, MA Waterplow Press. June 2002. 434
  2. Waterwise
  3. https://sftool.gov/learn/about/45/water-efficiency
  4. The 2nd UN World Water Development Report: ‘Water, a shared responsibility’
  5. WWC
  7. UNESCO Water
  8. Chinese Business Review: Water
  9. Water Preservation in Rural India http://iharnews.com/index.php/government/231-haryana-rural-water-policy-2012
  10. Water Efficiency Journal
  11. Water Efficient Solutions Journal
  12. Water Energy and Environment
  13. Savewater!
  14. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Washington, D.C. "Using Water Efficiently: Ideas for Communities." March 28, 2008.
  15. Sexton, Ken & Linder, Stephen H. (2010). The Role of Cumulative risk Assessment in Decisions about Environmental Justice. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 4037-4049
  16. House, J., Lantz, Paula M., Mero, R., Mohai, P., & Morenoff, J. (2009). Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Residential Proximity to Polluting Industrial Facilities: Evidence from the Americans' Changing Lives Study. American Journal of Public Health | Supplement 3, 2009, Vol 99, No. S3
  17. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resourc. 2009.34:405-430. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org by University of California - Berkeley on 12/11/11
  18. Smajgl, A., Morris, S., & Heckbert, S. (2008). Water policy impact assessment - combining modelling techniques in the great barrier reef region. Water Policy, 11(2), 191-202.
  19. Australian Government.(2003). Reef Plan: For catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
  21. http://www.oregon.gov/oha/oei/Pages/cultural-competency.aspx
  22. Muyibi, S. A., Ambali, A. R., & Eissa, G. S. (2008). Development-induced water pollution in malaysia: Policy implications from an econometric analysis. Water Policy, 10(2), 193-206
  23. Bernardo, D. J., Mapp, H. P., Sabbagh, G. J., Geleta, S., Watkins, K. B., Elliott, R. L., & Stone, J. F. (1993). Economic and environmental impacts of water quality protection policies. 1. framework for regional analysis. Water Resources Research, 29(9), 3069-3080.
  24. http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/ab776e/ab776e02.htm
  25. https://www.wholecommunities.org/pdf/WTJ4text%20and%20cover.pdf
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