Green buildings: CSE's new report advocates rating of water-efficient fixtures

New report advocates rating of water-efficient fixtures in buildings

  • Fixtures in toilets and kitchens consume over 40 per cent of the water a building uses in India’s cities. With India graduating from ‘bucket-baths’ to showers, creating water-efficient fixtures becomes critical.

  • No standards for water-efficient appliances in the country

  • Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), designated a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by the Union ministry of urban development, brings together regulators, industry and environmentalists to discuss a way ahead, presents a report on developing a rating system for water-efficient fixtures. Calls for voluntary appliance rating system to begin with, to be made mandatory later

New Delhi, September 28, 2010:
Water use in urban buildings constitutes a very high percentage of the total water use in any city. Fixtures in toilets and kitchens such as cisterns, urinals, faucets and showerheads consume more than 40 per cent of the water any building uses. Reducing water consumption and improving water efficiency in buildings can, therefore, be one of the keys to sustainable water management in a city.

In a stakeholder’s meet held here today, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based research and advocacy body, released its report on Rating System for Water Efficient Fixtures in India. The report, presented to kick-start discussions on the issue, is the first step towards developing such a rating system for the country(see the full report).

From right: E.P. Nivedita, (Dir, MoUD) Sunita Narain (Dir, CSE) and A.K Mehta (Jt.Sect, MoUD)

“Energy efficiency has come to be recognised as a key element that defines a ‘green’ building. The other key mark is water-efficiency. The Indian consumer has begun recognising the need for being water-prudent, and is keen to know about products that save water. As a nation, we need a rating system which looks at performance and efficiency of products and a labelling scheme that tells the consumer what to buy,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE at the launch of the report.

“We are hopeful that the report and today’s discussions will help the Union ministry of urban development formulate related policies to effectively tackle water efficiency and conservation issues,” said Suresh Rohilla, senior coordinator, CSE’s water unit. CSE has been designated a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by the ministry.

Water use in cities: a growing nightmare
In 2005, the official water demand of Delhi and Mumbai was 3,973 and 3,900 million litres daily (MLD), respectively; the per capita demand was estimated at 268 and 307 litres per capita daily (LPCD), respectively. The supply, in most cases, is way below the demand. In fact, in 2005, the shortfalls in Delhi and Mumbai were a massive 600 and 900 MLD, respectively.

With almost 30-40 per cent of their water lost in transmission and supply, every city in India is fighting a growing water crisis. Along with this, cities are also saddled with mounting sewage and wastewater generation and extremely decrepit – even non-existent – sewerage systems.

With the construction sector emerging as the second largest economic activity after agriculture, water use in Indian cities and their buildings is all set to touch new highs. While different agencies have suggested varying estimates of average per capita water use in cities, they all agree on the fact that toilets and bathrooms are the biggest water guzzlers in a house -- with flushes, taps and showers devouring more than 60-70 per cent of the total water use.

Better fixtures make a difference
Globally, nations have established norms for water-efficient fixtures. The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme of Singapore is a case in point. The scheme applies to showers, basins and sink taps, low capacity flushing cisterns, urinals and urinal flush valves, washing machines and showerheads. Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) require certain products to be registered and labelled in accordance with the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act of 2005.

“The good news is that over the years, significant technological progress has been made in improving water efficiency in fixtures, with minimum compromise on performance,” says Rohilla. And it does make a difference. According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), by installing more efficient water fixtures and regularly checking them for leaks, households in the US can reduce daily per capita water use by about 35 per cent.

In India, a 2009 survey by Tata Consulting Engineering conducted in Mumbai found that by using simple water-efficient fixtures, a five-member household could save (on an average) over 400 litres of water every day; the same survey had found the household consuming 920 litres a day on an average without the fixtures.

"Mr. A. K Mehta, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), addressing the meeting emphasised the need for efficiency in urban water sector. He mentioned that the recently launched the Sustainable Habitat Mission, can possibly provide a window for the legal framework for this reform. If the group present could work towards a robust labelling system for water efficient fixtures, the Ministry would also make all efforts to initiate the labelling program in India in a time bound manner at the earliest."

So, the way forward
The stakeholder’s meet agreed on creating a framework for a voluntary appliance rating system. Secondly, it suggested revision and amendment of the existing product specifications in accordance with the ratings. And finally, the effort – the stakeholders agreed -- should be to eventually make the rating system mandatory.

“As India industrialises and urbanises, water will be a key part of its growth. The need and clamour for it will grow. Traditionally, India has been a water-prudent nation. Our challenge would be to keep India like that, a country that knows how to save its water,” says Narain.

For more details, please contact Sakshi C Dasgupta on 98119 10901, or write to her at