Water Consumption By Type Lawn Industry

Proper layout of passively heated homes, photovoltaic (PV) systems, and solar thermal systems is important for getting the most out of your solar resource. Not only is it imperative to use ^ the proper tools for evaluating shading, but also important is the proper orientation of a home or solar collector relative to true south.

PV systems sited within 10 degrees of true south lose a maximum of only 2 percent of their generating capability. (For math-oriented people: The cosine of 10 degrees is approximately 0.98.) This doesn't sound like much, but considering the cost of PV modules, finding that extra "free" 2 percent can be worthwhile. Passive solar homes and solar thermal systems can show similar gains from accurate orientation.

But few people I encounter—even those with lots of solar energy experience— understand the differences between true, magnetic, and compass north (or south). And many solar energy system designers use only magnetic declination (a location's difference between magnetic and true north) to determine true south, without realizing that this gives only part of the picture—and that the solar orientation might be farther off than they think.

Magnetic north moves over time.

Magnetic Declination (2005)

Magnetic Declination (2005)

Magnetic north moves over time.

As a professional mariner, I work intimately with the difference between true north and magnetic north on a daily basis, and know that, in the northern hemisphere, there is an easier and more accurate way of determining true south than is usually discussed.


Two components determine the difference between true north and what the compass reads: magnetic declination and magnetic deviation. Magnetic declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north based on geographic location, and is

approximated in commonly found magnetic declination maps. Current theory is that the spinning, molten iron core at Earth's center creates an electromagnetic field. Since the magnetic field is not exactly lined up with Earth's axis (North and South Poles), there is a geographic difference between the true poles and the magnetic poles. Compasses are basically magnets that point as closely as they can toward the magnetic poles.

Magnetic declination changes slightly over time as the magnetic pole moves, but is easy to determine by using the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration Web site (see Access). For example, my house's magnetic declination is 9 degrees 34 minutes east (E), and has been changing by 0 degrees 7 minutes west (W) per year (1 minute of arc equals 1/60 of a degree). Magnetic declination can either be east of north or west of north, which further complicates the procedure—be sure to get the direction correct or else your orientation could be off doubly far.


Magnetic declination is only one of the potential orientation errors. Magnetic deviation is the difference between magnetic north and what the compass reads, or compass north, and is induced in a compass by local magnetic fields. Deviation must be taken into account along with magnetic declination if accurate bearings are to be calculated.

Just like magnetic declination, magnetic deviation can either be east of north or west of north. And it can be the same or opposite of magnetic declination. Local magnetic fields that can contribute to deviation include:

• The metal parts of the compass or the ship or vehicle it is traveling in

• Variations in Earth's magnetic fields caused by differences in Earth's crust and mantle

• Variations caused by mountains, iron ore deposits, etc.

While geologic variations like iron ore deposits near your site can cause deviation, it is most commonly caused by iron, steel, or magnets near where you are measuring. And deviation calculations can change from measurement to measurement! Most likely, you are causing the deviation. How far away is your vehicle? Are you carrying a wrench or hammer? Most audio speakers have a magnet in them; do you have a cell phone or radio at hand? Is the solar array's post made of steel? Steel, a magnet, or any magnetic field from electrical equipment can deflect the needle of a compass you are using.

Luckily, it is easy to address most deviation by removing the source or bypassing it. Move your truck farther away. Leave all your metal tools several meters from where you are measuring. Stand at least a few meters from the steel post the array is mounted on.

To determine magnetic north, you must apply deviation effects to what your compass reads. Then you apply magnetic declination to magnetic north to get true north. Again, each correction can be east or west, so be sure to add or subtract correctly. As you can see, determining true south can become quite complicated!

Q: Which of the elements in this scene can negatively affect the accuracy of a compass? A: Lots of them.

The Easy Way

You might be surprised to learn that the most accurate method of determining true north completely bypasses magnetic deviation, magnetic declination, and all that calculating—and eliminates the compass altogether.

Just look up in the sky on a clear night. In the northern hemisphere, you will see Polaris, the North Star, stationary in the sky. The North Star is always either exactly or just a few tenths of a degree from true north. So all you need to do to face your system south is line up its north/south axis with the North Star. How do you find it? Look north (use your compass and allow for magnetic declination). The North Star is not the brightest star in the sky, but it is the brightest in that part of the sky. If you know what the Big Dipper looks like (take a look at Alaska's state flag), follow the two pointer stars on the outside of the Big Dipper's cup to find the North Star.

Recognizing the Big and Little Dippers can help you identify Polaris, the North Star.

Aligning an array to true south by siting the North Star.

Case in Point

Before my partner Michele and I built our house, we had the solar-electric system installed so we could use solar energy for most of the home's construction. After the modules were installed, I went out on a clear night to check the array's orientation. Sure enough, the PV array had been installed about 15 degrees off true south. So I loosened the bolts and swung the array until the North Star lined up with the space between the left and right halves of the array. After retightening the bolts, the array was positioned to harvest 100 percent, not 98 percent, of the sun's power.

I also used a similar method before our home's foundation was laid. On a clear night, I went out to the site, pounded a tall fence post into the ground, and walked south-ish about 50 feet. Then I squatted down and moved a little until I lined up the North Star with the top of the fence post, and set a second post at this location. After double-checking the alignment, I had a positive reference for a true north-south line. I didn't need to use any calculations, and I didn't worry about magnetic deviation from iron ore, steel posts, or my cell phone. My contractor simply used the two reference posts to properly orient our passive solar house to true south.

Finding true north is easy, so why make it harder than it needs to be? And once you know true north, since true south is off by 180 degrees, you know it too—just turn around. Next time you need to do the important task of orienting a building or solar panels to true south, simply wait for a clear night and let the North Star be your guide.


Grey Chisholm, PO Box 396, San Antonito, NM 87047 • 505-379-4173 • [email protected]

NOAA • www.ngdc.noaa.gov/seg/geomag/jsp/ Declination.jsp • Magnetic declination calculator

U.S. Geological Survey's National Geomagnetism Program • http://geomag.usgs.gov


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In some places, water is so scarce that it is obtained from hundreds of miles away. Even where water has been plentiful in the past, groundwater levels are dropping, and some creeks and rivers are disappearing from the mounting pressures of drought, irrigation, and population growth. For example, in both 2005 and 2006, the Little Plover River, just outside of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, dried up due to extensive agricultural and municipal water use. Because of overappropriation for irrigation and other water uses, the Rio Grande, along the U.S.-Mexican border, is reduced to a mere trickle by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the American Water Works Association, the average household uses 69.3 gallons per day (more than 25,000 gallons each year) for indoor purposes. By installing water-efficient fixtures and eliminating leaks, households can reduce this by 35 percent or more. Here is how you can reach that goal and do more, with less.

Repair the Leaks

One easy way to stop wasting water is to repair leaky faucets, showerheads, pipes, and toilets. A leak dripping at one drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons per year. Dripping faucets can be fixed by replacing washers in the valve seat. (For details on how to fix leaky faucets, toilets, valves, etc., see Access.)

To check for toilet tank leaks, place food coloring in the toilet tank and wait about 30 minutes. If the color shows in the bowl without flushing, the tank is leaking. You may find a leaky flapper valve to replace, or that you need to make an adjustment in the float valve to decrease the water level to below the overflow tube—both are easy to fix. When finished testing, flush the toilet to clear the food coloring, as it may stain the bowl.

Some plumbing leaks may be hidden under the home, underground, or even inside a fixture, and can be detected by reading a water meter before and after a two-hour period when no other water is being used. If the meter does not read the same as the first time, there is a leak that must be searched out and repaired.

A leak dripping at one drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons per year.

Saving Water = Saving Energy + Money

Whether water is supplied by a private well or a municipal water system, it takes energy to move it from source, to storage, and to the end use. The less water consumed, the less energy needed to pump it.

The same goes for heated water—less consumed means less energy needed for heating. Turning down a water heater thermostat is one way to cut water heating costs and energy use. Each 10°F reduction in water temperature can shave 3 to 5 percent off water heating costs. Temperatures can be set as low as 115°F, providing adequate hot water for uses such as hand dishwashing, showering, and bathing.

Laundering clothes in cold water can also save energy. Implementing hot water conservation strategies before you size a solar hot water system for your home can save money on a system's costs.

Water conservation techniques save money too, particularly in homes served by a public water utility. Conserving water saves on water and sewer bills, which often include both a fixed charge and a per-gallon charge, such as $2.80 per 1,000 gallons of water. Although this charge might seem trivial, conserving water can provide excellent financial savings over the long term.

Example Water & Cost Savings

Kitchen Aerator Shower Head Total Time On Total Daily Total Annual Annual Water &

Type Flow (GPM) + Flow (GPM) = (GPM) x (Min. / Day) = Usage (Gal.) Usage (Gal.) Sewage Cost*









30 30










Toilet Training

Older toilets use 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush (gpf) and account for about 40 percent of all indoor household water use. They can be replaced with low-flow versions that use 1.6 or fewer gpf, saving about 15,000 gallons of water a year. Although some early low-flow toilets had problems flushing completely, toilets have been re-engineered to perform properly with a 1.6-gallon flush.

Another option is a dual-flush toilet, which allows you to choose the amount of water to use, either 0.8 gallons or 1.5 gallons for heavier needs. Duals are mandated in some countries, and are increasingly available in the United States, costing $270 to $620.

Water-wasting toilets can be retrofitted to save water by installing an adjustable flapper valve, a toilet tank bank, and/or an overflow tube diverter. Adjustable flapper valves have an opening that lets water in to weigh it down. A weighted flapper valve shuts sooner than a non-weighted one, allowing less water to flow from the tank to the bowl and saving up to 3.0 gpf. This inexpensive flapper valve (about $5) is particularly useful in traditional toilets, but also can be used in some low-flush toilets.

A toilet tank bank is a bladder filled with water and hung in the tank. It displaces space that would normally be filled, so each flush uses less water. A bank (about $2) can save up to 0.8 gpf. Beware: Although a toilet tank bank is sometimes called a "glorified brick," a real brick in the tank can deteriorate and damage a toilet's flushing mechanism. Other items placed in a tank may dislodge and catch the flapper valve open, causing the toilet to "run" continuously—the opposite of the desired result.

A toilet fill-cycle diverter ($1) mounts on top of the tank overflow tube and is connected to the fill tubing. A hole in the diverter redirects some of the water from the overflow tube into the tank, saving excess water from being sent into the bowl. These gizmos can save 0.5 gpf.

In Japan, where space and potable water are both scarce, some toilets incorporate sinks into tank lids. Clean water normally sent to the toilet tank is diverted to the sink's spigot for hand-washing, and then routed to the tank—performing two functions before it's flushed. A replacement lid with a sink is available in the United States for $89 (see Access).

A composting toilet is an option when water is particularly scarce. (Note: Most use no water, but some require electricity to evaporate the liquid waste.) Composting toilets use bacteria to break down waste, converting human "manure" into an odorless, nutrient-rich fertilizer suitable for amending the soil around nonedible plants. Dry material, such as sawdust, is added to reduce odors and control insects. Composting toilets can reduce indoor water use by up to 30 percent, and manufactured models start at about $1,200. (Some people choose to construct their own.) Check your local regulations to ensure that they are allowed, or if regular inspections are required.

Other waterless toilets incinerate the solids and evaporate the liquids, leaving only ash. These toilets are energy-intensive, using 14 to 17 KWH per day for two people—as much as many energy-efficient households use in total—and start at $1,600.

A low-flow toilet can greatly reduce your water use.

A toilet tank bank displaces space in the tank, saving water with each flush.

A weighted adjustable flapper valve.

A toilet tank bank displaces space in the tank, saving water with each flush.

A weighted adjustable flapper valve.

Double duty: This toilet-lid sink cleverly routes used hand-washing water to the toilet tank for future flushes.

Double duty: This toilet-lid sink cleverly routes used hand-washing water to the toilet tank for future flushes.

Showers & Faucets

Standard showerheads use up to 10 gallons per minute (gpm), but low-flow showerheads typically use one-tenth to one-fourth that much. A low-flow showerhead works by mixing air into the water flow, which is restricted to increase the water velocity, resulting in the use of less water to rinse. Some come with shut-off valves so you can turn off the water while soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse without having to readjust the temperature settings.

Faucets can be easily fitted with low-flow aerators for less than $3. Traditional faucet aerators typically use 3.5 gpm. Low-flow faucet aerators use 1.5 to 2.2 gpm and are available for the kitchen or bathroom.

Low-flow faucet aerators for the bathroom (left) and kitchen (right) are inexpensive water savers.

Typical Household Water Usage

Saving Water Outdoors

Lawns, gardens, and other outdoor applications of water account for the largest portion of household water use—about 30 percent. This makes the outdoors a prime target for conservation.

A relatively new method of outdoor water conservation is xeriscaping, a strategy of creating a landscape that thrives on the amount of rainfall nature provides. Water-wise landscapes tend to be more resistant to diseases, easier to maintain, and more welcoming to pollinating butterflies, birds, and bees.

Here are some other outdoor water conservation methods you can use:

• Mulch around plants and trees to reduce water evaporation. Mulch materials include wood chips, straw, plastic film, and landscape fabric.

• Use plants adapted to local conditions. In arid climates, yucca, iris, thyme, and crocus fare well. Consider using native plants, which are already adapted to the local climate.

• Water in the early morning, when it's less windy and cooler, to avoid evaporation.

• Add windbreaks and fencing to slow winds and reduce evaporation caused by moving air.

• Decrease the size of your lawn. One square foot of lawn can require an inch of water (0.6 gallons per sq. ft.) per week during the summer.

• Make sure your soil's porosity matches your plants' needs. Plants that are rooted in soils with high porosity will be continually thirsty, and low porosity soils can hold too much water, drowning the roots.

• Irrigate efficiently by targeting water directly to your plants and trees with drip systems or soaker hoses.

• Use a rain barrel or tank to harvest runoff from your roof, and use that "free"water for your yard.

Washing Machines & Dishwashers

For washing clothes and dishes efficiently, choose Energy Star models. Full-sized Energy Star clothes washers use 18 to 25 gallons of water per load, compared to the 40 gallons used by a standard machine. They also save up to 50 percent in energy costs, and extract more residual water to shorten drying time. Energy Star washing Energy Star dishwashers are machines can save water designed with more efficient and energy. °

motors and washing action, saving about 4 gallons of water per cycle while ensuring effective cleaning. And they use at least 41 percent less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption. Both dishwashers and washing machines also save on hot water, furthering energy savings.

Quick Conservation Tips

Habitual water saving comes easy with practice. Here are some simple conservation techniques you can implement:

• While brushing your teeth or lathering your skin, minimize water consumption by simply turning off the faucet between uses.

• While the faucet is on, try to use the water for at least two purposes, such as washing hands and presoaking dishes in a basin.

• While waiting for water to heat up at the tap, collect it in a vessel and find other uses for it, like watering plants.

• Used water, called greywater, can be collected from dishwashing, laundry, and bathing, and used for watering houseplants or gardens. (For more info, see Access.)

Capturing Rainwater

Instead of sending rain runoff from your roof or driveway down storm drains, where it carries washed-off chemicals and other pollutants to lakes and rivers, capture it on site. Besides protecting watersheds, you'll also be helping recharge groundwater tables that have fallen, in part, because of the increase in impervious surfaces.

Build a rain garden to help intercept runoff that might otherwise go down storm drains, and provide greenery in your landscape without additional watering. Native perennial plants are typically used because of their ability to develop extensive root systems and tolerance of varying moisture conditions.

Rain barrels can also reduce storm-water runoff by capturing it before it has a chance to hit the ground. Rain falling on a roof can be directed through gutters and downspouts to rain barrels, which have a spigots for delivering collected rainwater. You can use this collected rain to water a garden or wash a car, reducing your demands on your household water supply.


Mary Eberle, First Step Renew, 417 Walton Pl., Madison, WI 53704 • 608-441-0044 • [email protected]www.firststeprenew.com

Additional Resources:

Composting Toilet World • www.compostingtoilet.org • Composting toilet information

Environmental Design Works • www.sinkpositive.com • Toilet-lid sink

Repairing leaks • www.wikihow.com/Category:Plumbing-Drains-Wasteand-Vents

Univ. of Massachusetts Extension • www.umassgreeninfo.org/fact_sheets/plant_culture/ gray_water_for_gardens.html • Greywater gardening

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources • www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/water/wm/nps/rg/rgmanual. pdf • Excellent rain garden guide

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