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    Credit: Eli Meir Kaplan

TOWARD 2020: HOME OF THE FUTURE

The hyper-water-efficient home of the future will have hot showers, clean clothes, and beautifully landscaped yards, but how it will deliver these differs from today’s water-efficient homes in three significant ways:

Graywater. Bath, shower, sink, and clothes washer wastewater will be collected, filtered, treated, and stored in a holding tank until needed for flushing toilets and irrigating plants. Although graywater systems can be installed today (if local rules permit), in the water-efficient home of the future they will be more common, more affordable, and easier to use and maintain.

No water will be used for outdoor irrigation beyond what is supplied from the graywater system. Plants will be selected based on their ability to thrive in local climate conditions. Graywater will be transported to the landscape through a subsurface system that directs water to plants based on the measured soil moisture content and on tiny sensors on the plants. Every grouping of plants will have its own irrigation zone. The entire system will be controlled through the home computer using a custom graywater irrigation app. The system will continually monitor for faults and leaks, and any problems detected will be catalogued and electronically delivered via an alert system.

Rainwater. Rain that falls on the hyper-water-efficient house will be used to irrigate through the landscape design itself. Downspouts from the roof will direct rainwater onto the landscape to be dispersed across plant beds and detained with berms and furrows allowing the water to gradually infiltrate the ground. Rainwater capture, storage, and reuse will be part of future water-efficient homes in regions where the timing and frequency of rain events make such a system cost effective. In many areas, integrating rainwater runoff in the landscape design is the most cost-effective approach.

Resource Consumption Dashboards. Families that live in hyper-water-efficient homes will need regular feedback on water use provided by a flat-screen monitor on the kitchen wall dedicated to water and energy consumption. Daily, monthly, and annual water use will be compared with the pre-established consumption goal or budget (see illustration on page 35).

The water level in the graywater storage tank will also be monitored, along with measured soil moisture levels at any sensor point in the landscape. The dashboard will also be used for scheduling irrigation, leak alerts, and identifying when lights and appliances have been left running.

Among some of the other features in these ultra-efficient homes: 0.5-gpf toilets, 10-gallons-per-load clothes washers, 4-gallons-per-load dishwashers, structured plumbing that reduces hot water delivery waste to less than 1 cup of water, and indoor moisture capture to extract moisture from wet towels.