The Earth is not making any new water (and, unlike sunlight, none arrives here daily from space). The fixed quantity of water molecules that exist on our planet have been around since long before we arrived, and they will remain long after we are gone. Water is simply endlessly cycled and recycled and recycled yet again, through us, animals, plants and the environment. The water in the beverage we drink or the food we eat will pass through us and out into the environment to eventually be treated and cleansed, evaporated and transpired, condensed and cohered back into rain or rivers or lakes or oceans, to come back to us once again someday.
That is why we all — green designers and architects and everyday users of water alike — have to become ever better at conserving and efficiently recycling water. With a fixed total supply of water, the only way for an ever-growing global population to have enough usable water day by day is for the speed and efficiency of the water cycle to be optimized. We must not only find ways to use less water, but also to use, treat, clean, recycle and conserve the water we do use in ever better ways.
Some means of conserving water have become increasingly evident and increasingly prevalent. These include: the planting of water-efficient landscaping and irrigation systems; xeriscaping; replacing water-handling and water-using equipment with newer, more highly efficient equipment; retrofitting fixtures and appliances; preventing leaks and spills; handling as much waste as possible in a dry state; educating the general public in water efficiency; appointing responsible water managers; etc.
In the design of water consuming fixtures for our homes and businesses (that is, drinking fountains, sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, dishwashers, clothes washers, etc.), product manufacturers and designers are becoming ever more innovative. High efficiency toilets are now available that reduce water consumption by anywhere from 20% to 40%. Likewise, newer high efficiency urinals can reduce water use by 50% to 85%. There are also dry urinals that consume no water at all.
Automatic sensor and metering faucets — now used throughout many commercial buildings and institutions — offer hands-free use in addition to water savings of from 20% to 50% over older conventional faucets. Savings may be even greater if low flow