Water is a valuable resource, one that is often mistakenly thought of as not that important or even “free.” With population increases, however, water resources are often becoming strained.
Water usage efficiency techniques are vital for everyone, from individual consumers to large facilities. They are particularly important for businesses who need to keep operating while reducing costs and for water-hungry facilities such as healthcare buildings, correctional facilities, and schools.
Why Is Water Management Important?
Historically, regions have sought out additional sources to compensate for increased use. In many areas that is no longer possible. Enter water management, sometimes called water resource management. Water management is simply making the best use of the water you have so you don’t need to increase usage and put further strain on aquifers and other finite resources.
Proper water management also saves money by lowering your water bill and can help you attract customers and employees by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability. It includes planning how you use water, using water more effectively, and even things like water reuse.
Best Practices for Efficient Water Use
There are things that any facility can do to make their water use more efficient. A water use audit is a good place to start, allowing you to understand where you might be using (and wasting) water. A good audit will also help find any leaks in the plumbing or other issues that are causing water loss. Here are some things to consider:
- Internal metering. For larger facilities, installing internal metering can help track which departments and areas are using the most water and which thus need to be targeted. Obviously, some activities, such as cleaning medical equipment, are going to use more water than others.
- Keeping plumbing in good repair. Leaks can result in significant water loss, not to mention potential damage to the building. Proper maintenance and watching for leaks and drips can help. Even making sure that leaking faucets are repaired in a timely manner can save a surprising amount of money. A leaky faucet that drips one drip per second will waste over 3,000 gallons a year. That’s just one faucet.
- Updating bathroom fixtures. Update all restrooms with low flow toilets and no touch sinks. No touch sinks prevent water from being left running and are also healthier, as they remove a high touch surface that can transmit disease. Waterless urinals are another easy option to reduce water in a quick and relatively inexpensive way. If you have showers, use low-flow shower heads.
- Look at your landscaping. If you have landscaping, plant native, drought-tolerant plants and shrubs rather than thirsty imports. Plants that are evolved for your environment need less watering and are likely to be healthier and live longer. If you are using irrigation, use drip irrigation when possible. Run sprinklers only at night. Add a rain sensor to your irrigation systems. If there has been enough rain, the irrigation system will not run at that time, but will wait until the soil has dried out. Consider permeable pavement if redoing a large expanse of asphalt, which allows water to go into the ground and can reduce water waste and flooding.
- Consider gray water and rainwater usage. Rainwater can be harvested for irrigation and for uses that don’t require potable water, such as flushing toilets. Gray water is water which has been used to wash hands, launder clothes, shower, etc. This is not sanitary and potable, but is also not toxic and can be used for landscape irrigation, toilet flushing, etc.
- Keep your HVAC systems, especially air conditioning, well maintained. Avoid excessive use of air conditioning, but balance temperatures. Keeping the office a degree or two warmer in the summer reduces water and energy use without significantly affecting the comfort of staff. Using external ventilation when possible is even better for energy and air quality. Smart AC systems that turn the temperature up when the building is unoccupied or when areas are not in use can also save a lot of water and energy.
All of these techniques can help you use water more efficiently. Again, the easiest and quickest way to identify areas for improvement is to get a water audit and check your plumbing for leaks. A water audit can identify all the ways you can improve, and you can start with the low-hanging fruit. If you are interested in getting a water audit and finding out how your business can use water more efficiently, contact Envocore today.