Conservation could curb future N.J. water demands

A broken pipe that leaks water in all directions.

(Alvinge/BigStock)

New Jersey’s water needs could actually go down, despite population growth, with more investment in  conservation, according to a Rutgers University study.

Conservation occurs in two primary ways, it said, noting that people are already saving water in their homes, as they gradually replace appliances, shower heads and faucets with new models using less water.

Secondly, big savings could be achieved as utilities invest in infrastructure. Public community water-supply systems in the state lose a lot of water through leaky pipes. The problem is worse in North Jersey, where the infrastructure tends to be older and is strained more by hillier topography.

Rutgers professor Dan Van Abs, who wrote the report, said he examined how modest improvements would play out in various scenarios.

“In some cases, [the population growth] would lead to higher demands if we don’t do a good job on water conservation and water-loss reduction,” he said. “But if we do a good job on water conservation and water-loss reduction, we could actually add all of those people and use less water statewide.”

New Jersey expects its population to rise more than 1 million by 2040. That’s a rough estimate; significant population changes in New Jersey stem from immigration, and patterns of immigration are not steady.

The study also dug deep to understand who is using the water. They found that low-density housing, such as single homes, use almost double the water than high-density areas with many apartment buildings. Understanding these patterns is important in making accurate predictions as the population changes.

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