A very large portion of water distributed by municipal water utilities in the United States goes to commercial and institutional facilities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “the commercial and institutional sector is the second largest consumer of publicly supplied water in the United States, accounting for 17 percent of the withdrawals from public water supplies”.
“Commercial and institutional” facilities include hotels, schools, office buildings, and government facilities, as well as very large buildings such as sports arenas, airports, convention centers and the like. Because these facilities use such a significant portion of U.S. water, water conservation awareness is very important. And with so much of the United States experiencing various types of droughts—from abnormally dry to severe—this awareness is critical at this time.
As to where this water is being used, the EPA breaks it down into four key areas:
- Restrooms: 37 percent
- Cooling and heating: 28 percent
- Landscaping: 22 percent
- Kitchen and dishwashing: 13 percent
Water consumption awareness and steps to reduce water consumption should start with what we call the “low hanging fruit.” These are areas that can be addressed quickly and relatively inexpensively. This pretty much eliminates cooling and heating. Other than having these systems inspected to ensure they are not wasting water, replacing HVAC equipment can be very costly. Invariably, building owners and managers wait until these systems are at the end of their lifespan before taking such steps.
Likewise, landscaping is a large investment and changing landscaping or irrigation systems can also be costly. Have these systems inspected to ensure there are no leaks.
This leaves us with restrooms as the key areas for water conservation awareness. Restroom faucets, should have low flow aerators installed. These inexpensive systems meet user satisfaction while reducing water flow to 0.5 gallons per minute (GPM), down significantly from the current Federal Plumbing Standards that specify bathroom faucets use no more than 2.2 gpm. Installing these low flow aerators can also reduce energy costs because they reduce the amount of hot water dispensed by the faucet.
As to restrooms, the key focus should be urinals. The average urinal uses as much as 40,000 gallons of water per year. It can be hard to imagine just how much water this is, but it is as much as a medium sized swimming pool. And just imagine, this represents only one urinal.
A way to help conserve this water – which is also cost effective—is to replace the flush valve with a smart valve. These valves can reduce urinal water consumption without requiring the cost and disruption of replacing the current urinal. Some systems are also programmable so they can be set to release water every two, four, six, or more hours.
When it comes to water consumption awareness and saving water, we are fortunate that new technologies such as those from Betco are making conserving water easier and more cost effective. As an example, earlier we mentioned that sports arenas use large amounts of water. This testimonial shows how easily this can be addressed.
Product Manager Cleaning / CMS / Industrial