EPA Administrator Christie Whitman is urging Americans to find ways to eliminate the 14 percent loss of water that, on average, our households experience every day.
"Nationally, an average of 14 percent of the water we buy is lost through leaks without our ever using it -- that's like paying a 14 percent sales tax on something you don't get to use," Whitman said. August is "Water Efficiency Month," part of EPA's celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
A typical family of four spends about $820 on water supply fees and sewer charges per year and an additional $230 on heating the water. In many communities, the water and sewer costs can be twice that amount or higher. Many people do not realize how much money they can save by taking simple steps to save water and they don't know the cumulative effects such small changes can have on water resources and environmental quality.
"Water is truly a staple of our existence and using that water efficiently needs to be part of our daily lives," Whitman said. "Fixing a leaky faucet, toilet or lawn watering system can reduce water consumption. Changing to water-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances can be major water and energy savers as well.
"I believe water is the biggest environmental issue we face in the 21st century in terms of both quantity and quality," Whitman said. "The drought this summer is reminding many Americans of the need to appreciate clean water as an invaluable resource. As the U.S. population increases, the need for clean water supplies continues to grow dramatically and puts additional stress on our limited water resources. We can all take steps to save and conserve this valuable resource."
Reducing water usage translates into critical energy savings. Nationally, about eight percent of America's total energy production is used to treat, pump and heat water. Just as important as the energy savings are the improvements in environmental quality. Diverting less water for municipal uses preserves more streamflow to maintain a healthy aquatic environment. Less energy demand results in fewer pollutants from power plants.
When individual communities have focused on using water efficiently, they have enjoyed a record of success. Some communities such as Seattle, New York City and Boston have been able to reduce overall water use by more than 20 percent. To spotlight these successes, EPA has published Cases in Water Conservation: How Efficiency Programs Help Water Utilities Save Water and Avoid Costs.
For copies of Cases in Water Conservation: How Efficiency Programs Help Water Utilities Save Water and Avoid Costs, call 513-489-8190 and ask for publication number EPA832-B-02-003. Copies of the report and additional information also can be found at http://www.epa.gov/owm/water-efficiency/index.htm  .