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Water: The Mitigating Factor

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Sep 5, 2019, 11:08:38 AM

Water is the most pressing issue of our time.  If you’re in the building industry, it’s particularly important—simply put, if there is no water, there are no permits.  Rapidly changing water related codes, mandates, programs and pricing will continue to place new demands on the building sector, impacting every home and building. Green Builder Media is closely tracking the quickly advancing water sector with COGNITION Smart Data, revealing key trends, market drivers, and innovative technologies that can help solve for the growing water crisis.

Due to the combination of increased water consumption, climate change, pollution, poor infrastructure, and weak governance, nearly two-thirds of the global population lives in water stressed areas, making the need for innovative water solutions dire.

According to the United Nations, humans withdraw about four thousand cubic kilometers of water globally every year (approximately the volume of all the water in Lake Michigan)— triple what we withdrew 50 years ago.  Water consumption continues to increase at an annual rate of about 1.6%.

Within the U.S., demand for water is exploding as our population swells, especially in water parched areas like the Southwest and West.  By 2030, experts predict over 100% growth in states like Nevada and Arizona, 60% in Texas, and upwards of 30% in California and Colorado.  Many states throughout the nation are exploring stringent policies, programs, and pricing to proactively solve for the water predicament. 

codewatcher.uswp-contentuploads20190855e4d146435aab14ea898675c6203f78083edbe356567841712c7b_640_water-glassLike most countries across the globe, the U.S. isn’t just struggling with water quantity, but quality as well.  Dilapidated infrastructure and agricultural practices have deposited toxins into drinking water supplies throughout the nation, resulting in widespread water pollution (the U.S. is currently listed 64th on the World Health Organization’s global drinking water quality assessment.)

Within the building sector, water has the potential to become the #1 limiting factor to growth.  Water quality and quantity concerns will increasingly affect the way we address the built environment, and will force sweeping changes to codes, mandates, programs, and pricing. 

Across the country, builders and developers will soon be required to create water plans for building projects, taking into consideration water challenges as determined by climate change, extreme weather events, ecosystem impacts, and local governance.  Some municipalities have already implemented offset programs that require builders to show net-zero demand on aggregate water resources in order to receive a permit.

Through COGNITION Smart Data, Green Builder Media’s suite of market intelligence and data services (powered by a sophisticated, proprietary technology platform that uses Artificial Intelligence and the logic of IBM’s Watson to mine web and social media content), we are able to track the quickly changing dynamics within the water sector.

Interestingly, when asked about the global risks of highest concern, nearly 40% of consumers cited water crises—ranking higher than the failure of climate-change mitigation and adaption (36%), extreme weather events (26%), food crises (25%), and profound social instability (23%).

When analyzing water related purchase drivers, security topped the list, followed by energy efficiency (proving that consumers understand the nexus between energy and water), sustainability, comfort, and wellness.  DIY consumers are the most active with respect to water content on the web and social media.

The hottest innovation in the water space: leak detection and water monitoring systems, offered by companies like Phyn and FLO by Moen, that learn the water footprint of a home and alert homeowners of leaks or irregular usage.

Greywater systems from companies like Greyter that recycle water for interior non-potable use as well as exterior landscaping, along with smart irrigation systems and innovative technologies like atmospheric generators (that pull water out of the air for fresh water supply), are also gaining market traction. 

States and municipalities are adopting net zero water policies and restructuring water pricing to address water shortages.  Santa Fe, NM, for example, has some of the most stringent water policies and highest water prices in the country, and correspondingly, it also has the lowest daily per capita water usage at 87 gallons per day (Las Vegas, one of the next lowest daily per capita water use cities, is at around 200 gallons per day).  California announced a target to reduce water use per person to 55 gallons per day.

Municipalities and water utilities are also increasing water pricing and tap fees to incentivize conservation.  For example, along the Front Range in Colorado, water prices have soared—increasing an astronomical over 400% between 2011 and 2018—causing home prices to surge and developments to stall, compelling builders and developers to become extremely creative in how they manage water in their projects.  The city of Arvada (near Denver) is no longer supplying water to large residential developments until a new water source is built out.

Codes are transforming too—there are several proposed changes that may be implemented as early as the 2021 code cycle (underway now) that will require enhanced water conservation in all types of homes and buildings.

With respect to water, the future is certainly zero.  There is a definitive business opportunity for building professionals and manufacturers alike to offer innovative solutions that solve for the mushrooming water crisis. 

The curve for net zero water will likely follow that of net zero energy, with a growing dependence on water programs, such as WERS, Hers H2O, and WE Stand that offer performance and prescriptive based approaches to residential water efficiency (these programs are now being incorporated into codes, standards, and even financial incentives.)

No doubt, water pressures will require enhanced situational awareness, accurate water assessments, water risk mitigation, and ongoing monitoring and management.  But for innovative building professionals and manufacturers, there is a blossoming opportunity to provide creative water technologies and solutions that proactively address water quality and quantity.

For more information about COGNITION Smart Data insights about the quickly changing dynamics of the water sector, check out the webinar I recently presented on the topic

And if you’d like to learn more about how you can unleash the power of COGNITION to enable your team to make more informed decisions about marketing, sales, competitive positioning, audience segmentation, product development, or strategic business development, email me at sara.gutterman@greenbuildermedia.com

Save the date!  Join us to celebrate our 12th annual Home of the Year and Sustainability Awards winners on January 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, as well as for our Sustainability Symposium 2020: Improving the Human Condition on January 20.  Click here for more information—we’ll let you know when registration opens!

Want to read more?  Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.  For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit Green Builder Media at www.greenbuildermedia.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for regular updates and breaking news.

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