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Earth Sense: New appliances can conserve a sea of water
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Even if we don’t get a replay of the serious droughts that North Georgia experienced this century, it makes sense to conserve water.

Hall County gets its supply from Lake Lanier. The Chattahoochee River is the only major surface water body feeding the lake. It becomes clear that this is a very limited resource when you look at it north of Hall County and see the “true width” of the river, without the enhancement from the dammed-up waters of the lake.

Remodeling the home is a great way to revitalize it. Old flush toilets are the greatest water wasters.

They use much more volume per flush than new models and will leak when the rubber flapper in the tank wears out. The oldest commodes used up to 7 gallons of water per flush.

A new, high-efficiency one gets by with 1.3 gallons. In a household of four, and an estimated 12 flushes per day, this comes to an annual savings of 25,000 gallons of water, which by federal law is of drinking-water quality. This is as much as fits into a full-size tank car that you see on the local railroads.

That washing machine from the days of the Clinton administration may also need replacement. Old-style appliances, with the tub open at the top, typically used 45 gallons per full load.

Our example family of four, according to www.home-water-works.org, washes 300 to 400 loads per year, using as much as 18,000 gallons with an old machine.

Water efficiency hasn’t yet found its way onto appliance labels next to the energy ratings. The “water factor,” or WF, is the number of gallons used per cubic foot of laundry.

The machine with the smallest WF is the most efficient one. Modern appliances typically use 14 to 25 gallons per load, which has our sample family save another 10,000 gallons of water annually.

Even though I couldn’t get a water factor rating for the latest washing machine in our house, it’s impressive how little it uses. The glass window no longer shows an ocean during a hurricane, as it did in the 1990s.

Fill levels adjust automatically to the volume of laundry. It strains the eyes to even see water moving around in there. With new toilets and washers, every local household could be saving enough to return a railroad tanker full of water into Lake Lanier.
 
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.