Long, long ago, man’s earliest and most important need for an essential natural resource was for water. It was clean and plentiful in most parts of the world.

Then we became infatuated with gold and enamored with the power of oil. The industrial revolution brought incredible progress, and yet we seem to have forgotten the need to protect that one key resource; today, it’s more important than ever.

So step aside, gold. Move along, crude oil. At last, maybe we’ve come to see that our most precious resource on earth is … water.

That’s what a growing number of scientists and environmentalists claim. And for anyone who occasionally tunes in to the evening news, reads a newspaper or scans headlines online, it’s apparent that we’ve put ourselves in a pretty serious bind. Either we act now to preserve clean water or — ultimately — we’ll lose it.

Yes, yes — that’s right. You’re just one of seven-plus billion people on Planet Earth. But you may own a company. You may interact with customers who have concerns about this, too. And — as I’m doing today by writing — we can champion the good cause.

According to The Water Project, a non-profit organization focused on improving water availability and quality in Africa, as many as a billion people don’t have daily access to pure drinking water.

Of course, that’s third-world Africa, but there are many other regions worldwide that have the same challenge.

Right here on the humid East Coast, versions of the problem are now happening. And in our very own South, Southwest and West regions, concerns about the availability of plentiful, clean water are growing quickly.

Rob Ferraud, owner of Valley Plumbing in Bermuda Dunes, Calif., says he’s seen homeowners try just about everything to conserve water, or make up for the lack of it.

The drought that’s gripped much of the West Coast for a number of years is still going strong, despite more recent rains brought by El Nino and good snowpack this past spring. Residents are literally painting their dead lawns green and placing bricks in their toilet tanks to reduce the gpf.

And in a lot of homes, there are buckets in the shower to collect clean water while waiting for hot water to get to the tap. They save it to drink, flush toilets or water plants. It may seem silly at first, but — after all — it can take a long time for hot water to get to the tap.


Conservation, cost and convenience

As a plumbing professional, however, I’m glad to offer customers an alternative to catching water in a bucket.

Installation of hot water recirculation systems has now become a mainstream offering here at Avanti Plumbing & Heating.

I’ve been so surprised to learn that many homeowners still don’t know the systems exist. And, among them, plenty would be interested if we took the time to tell them about it. In my experience, most who learn from me about these simple devices are eager to have them installed. And, I’ll add: It’s profitable work!

After all, a family of four can save an average of 12,000 gallons of water each year. That’s a lot of water. And, they not only pay to pull it from a municipal source, they also pay to send it back down the drain as they wait at the sink, or for a warm shower.

I think of hot water recirculation — or simply “recirc” — as one more very useful tool in the toolbox. That is, the toolbox of products and practices I use to provide comfort and customer satisfaction.

Consider, too: Does the customer have more than two kids, pets, or a big house? Then they stand to save even more water. Of course, if they draw water from a municipal source, the cost of water adds up quickly.

For instance, in Arlington, Va., residents pay $4.21 per 1,000 gallons of metered water consumption. Then, to dispose of it as it flows down the drain, they pay the going sewer rate of $9.06 per 1,000 gallons. At about $160 per year for 12,000 gallons, it doesn’t take long to make up the cost of a small circulator.

It’s not all about conservation or cost, though. It’s also about convenience. According to Randal Williams, owner of Randal’s Plumbing, in Palm Desert, Calif., time is a big factor to a lot of his clients. Five minutes spent waiting for hot water to reach the kitchen or bathroom every day adds up to 30 hours per year.


Picking the right pump

Just as a reminder, the lead-free laws enacted in 2014 mean that it’s not possible to take any old heating system circulator and sweat it into place for a potable water system. A number of manufacturers have developed a wide range of lead-free residential recirc systems to fit just about any application.

For new construction, or in a home with dedicated recirc lines, options abound. Most circulator manufacturers — in addition to a few water quality companies — offer drop-in circulators, many of which come with a timer, allowing the homeowner to set the time of day the circulator runs.

For retrofit work, availing recirculation for homes without dedicated return line, easy-in packages typically use the cold return line to complete the recirc loop. This is usually accomplished with a small diverter valve that installs under the water fixture located farthest from the hot water source.

Like everything else (my phone, my truck, my kids), DHW recirculation systems are getting smart. Gone are the days of a standard circulator that runs 24/7/365. Even analog timers, once the early choice for recirc systems, are rudimentary today. Systems are now available with “adaptive” technology — they pattern hot water use in the home, then pump hot water at the times it was used during the recording period.

Consider adding domestic hot water recirculation to your service offering. It’s an additional source of revenue. I’ve found that most customers like knowing about it as an option, especially for use in larger homes where wait times at the tap are typically longer.

You’ll always find a few folks that just don’t care, but others will wonder how they’ve survived without it.