Greenrealestate: Water is the new oil

Green Real Estate Feb 11, 2011

Elden FreemanBy Elden Freeman
As the Canadian real estate market is expected to follow patterns this year similar to last, we need to put our best foot forward to support and guide buyers, especially in the second half of the year when interest rates are expected to rise.

Keeping appraised of current green trends instills confidence and trust in your clients as you open their eyes to solutions to help reduce ecological footprints and defray costs associated with their new home or commercial property.

Water is a natural resource often overlooked when navigating the hills and valleys of our environmental landscape. While water covers more than 70 per cent of the earth’s surface and comprises two-thirds of our bodies, it is a huge fallacy to think that there is a limitless supply. In fact, only about one per cent of the world’s water is drinkable.

As Canadians, we go through lots of it, an average of 343 litres of fresh water per day per person. That’s one of the worst rates on record and is second only to the U.S. and more than double that of most Europeans.

Reduce, repair and retrofit are the three Rs of water conservation. The typical household should be able to reduce its consumption by 40 per cent without it crimping a family’s lifestyle. Here’s how.

The bathroom is where the majority of indoor water use takes place. Take shorter showers (five minutes or less) or fill the tub only one-quarter full. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket by flushing unnecessarily. Turn the tap off while brushing teeth. Repair faucet leaks and toilets that run after flushing. Consider replacing older toilets that use up to 18 litres of water per flush with new ones that only use six. Install a low-flow showerhead.

In the kitchen, keep a bottle or pitcher of drinking water available in the refrigerator rather than running your tap to get cold water when you want a drink. Run dishwashers only when they’re full.

Front-loading clothes washers use about 40 per cent less water per load than top-loading machines. Also, look for a washing machine with adjustable water levels. This can help control the water level for full or small loads.

Outdoor water use, which jumps by 50 per cent during the growing season, adds to your water footprint. Purchase sprinklers suited to the size and shape of your property to avoid watering sidewalks and driveways. Consider installing timers on outdoor taps. Sprinklers that distribute water in a flat pattern are more efficient than oscillating sprinklers.

Think about using water that doesn’t come from a tap. Cisterns or rain barrels, which capture and stores rain water, are footprint-friendly alternatives.

A low-maintenance landscape – one that needs little more water than nature provides – is optimum. Known as xeriscaping, the principles include smaller lawns and the use of native grasses, shrubs and trees and mulch.

If your client is buying a commercial or industrial property, water conservation methods are critical because costs can escalate quickly. However, there could be even more at risk if the workplace uses water in its production process or for washing goods or equipment. Is this being done efficiently? Does your community have a water efficiency program that helps households and businesses reduce water usage? Is the water distribution system properly maintained so that no pollution leaks into it and so that no water is wasted through leaky mains?

Environment Canada ( provides a water use calculator to assess how your household water use stacks up against the rest of the country. National Geographic ( has a water footprint calculator that incorporates a broader picture of usage, including calculations based on water used in your diet, airline and auto travel and how much you spend annually on clothing and other items.

Getting in on the green revolution now will only bode well for your practice, as clients will see you as forward thinking, smart and compassionate. That puts you and your client at a huge advantage and, in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). 416-536-7325;
. For more information about NAGAB and what it can do for your business, visit