Saving water doesn’t often rise to the top of businesses’ sustainability initiatives, especially in regions where water shortages aren’t everyday concern. But it should get more attention.
Environmental scientists expect worldwide shortages of fresh water to be one of the most pressing environmental concerns in the next 50 years, as the world’s population nears 10 billion. Moreover, many cities and towns are raising their water rates. (And remember that hot water usage also affects energy bills.)
Every business uses water in different ways, of course – and some a lot more than others. But by knowing how much water you use, and where you use it, you can start tackling the issue. Here are some strategies to get you started:
Go low-flow. Whether restroom or break room faucets or showers, make sure they are outfitted with low-flow restrictors. A low-flow faucet aerator, for instance, emits less than 1.5 gallons of water per minute compared with 2.2 gallons for standard faucets. Older toilets use nearly 5 gallons of water per flush, while newer high-efficiency ones use 2. And pre-rinse spray valves – the hoses that restaurants use to rinse dirty dishes – out put 1.5 gallons per minute compared with 4 gallons per minute or more for standard valves.
Get a water audit. Companies that use massive amounts of water should seriously consider getting professional help in reducing their water consumption. A commercial water audit examines how much water a business uses and provides detailed information on where opportunities lie for using less (and saving money). Audits can also identify costly water leaks that should be repaired. Some water utilities provide audits to commercial customers for free and even provide rebates for water-saving initiatives.
Purchase water-efficient equipment. Various types of equipment used by businesses consume a lot of water but are available in water-efficient models, or have less-water-intensive alternatives. They may have somewhat higher upfront costs but can pay for themselves quickly through water and water-heating energy savings.
Reduce landscape water use. Lush green lawn can require dozens or hundreds of gallons of water a day to keep it looking so. Consider planting native landscapes or other less water-intensive alternatives. Also consider installing a rain-harvesting system to collect water on site for landscape irrigation or using a sensored irrigation system to better control exterior water use.
Engage and inform employees. Every employee plays a role in water usage, so this is a prime opportunity to get employees involved in the business’s green efforts. Whether it’s part of a green team effort or publishing articles in the newsletter, remind employees to be conscientious of water use and ask for their ideas on how to save it.
For a nice list of water efficiency strategies by industry, check out the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Resource Library for Commercial, Institutional and Industrial Users.
Has your business taken any steps to reduce water usage? If so, what steps?