A group of green home builders in New Mexico recently created the WERS rating, a water conservation standard designed to help homes save water. What is the WERS rating and what does it mean for homebuyers? Let’s take a closer look.
What is the WERS Rating?
WERS stands for Water Efficiency Rating Score. It’s a term that quantifies a home’s water use, then generates a score similar to the HERS index, which is used to measure a home’s energy consumption.
The measurement standard was created by the Green Builder Coalition.
WERS seeks to solve one of New Mexico’s biggest problems: a lack of water. Many homeowners have acknowledged the need to conserve water more efficiently in their homes, so they install things like toilets and showers with flow reduction equipment. However, this equipment only reduces water consumption in certain parts of your home.
WERS, meanwhile, tracks water usage inside and outside the home to help homeowners make better decisions about their water usage.
WERS scores are given based on a scale from 0 to 100, with lower numbers indicating better water efficiency.
How Does WERS Track Water Consumption?
WERS tracks the efficiency of water consumption by tracking indoor and outdoor water usage.
Inside the home, for example, WERS looks at the main plumbing fixtures, including the toilets, showers, lavatories, kitchen sinks, clothes washers, and pipe priming (the pipe priming is water that is wasted before usable hot water arrives at the farthest hot water-using fixture).
The system looks at the loading values and associated efficiencies of these fixtures to calculate indoor water use. It also takes into account rainwater and graywater catchment, and uses these measurements in an attempt to offset indoor water use (just like solar panels can offset energy use in the HERS index).
How to Get a WERS Score On a Home
Homebuilders can estimate the WERS score of a property based on the fixtures and appliances installed in the home as well as any water conservation strategies the home plants to implement.
However, that only provides a general estimate for the WERS score. To get a specific WERS score, the completed program document must be sent to a third-party WERS verifier, who will then check to ensure all appliances, fixtures, and strategies have been installed as the builders have claimed.
Then, there’s one final certification step: the program document is sent to the Green Builder Coalition for processing.
Once that step is complete, the homebuilders have a certified, verified measurement of how efficiently the home consumes water. They can use this information to apply for tax credits or other incentives that require third party verification.
Tax Credits, Incentives, and Other WERS Benefits
Why should you start thinking about WERS? Here are some of the tax credits, incentives, and other benefits of the WERS system:
-Potential financial incentives, including reduced tap and storm water impact fees
-Potential upcoming tax credits like Senate Bill 279, which was recently approved and will be funded in 2016 to promote water conservation across NM
-Support of water conservation codes, regulations, and enforcement, and can easily be incorporated into your local green building code (which varies between municipalities across New Mexico – in Santa Fe, we have the Santa Fe Residential Green Building Code, or SFRGBC)
-The satisfaction of doing your part in the long-term conservation of a precious natural resource
The Green Builders Coalition is currently in talks with the EPA to expands WERS across the country and build support.
What Does WERS Mean for Santa Fe Homebuyers?
WERS gives homebuilders, homebuyers, and anyone else in the industry an easy way to compare homes.
If two homes seem pretty much identical in square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, location, and all other metrics you use to compare property, then the WERS score may be the deciding factor.
The 0 to 100 scale of the WERS score also plays into the competitive nature of homebuilders: builders may start to advertise that they have the lowest WERS scores in New Mexico, for example, and will try to beat competitors to a lower score.
Build your Next Santa Fe Home with Water and Energy Efficiency in Mind
Ultimately, WERS is a water conservation standard that’s becoming increasingly important in New Mexico. If you’re interested in designing and constructing a home with strong WERS and HERS standards, get in touch with us today at Palo Santo Designs. As an award-winning design build contractor, we can build homes to your precise specifications and efficiency goals.