Tracking and Reducing Water Use in Your Building

Water is a precious resource, but sometimes people don’t give it a second thought. But we should! The next two articles will discuss challenges around our water supply, and strategies buildings can take to protect this valuable resource through conservation and stormwater management.

Water scarcity is a pressing concern; for example, in the Southwest, the amount of water coming from the Colorado River (and therefore available to the seven states it provides resources) has declined over the past 20 years. With cities in the Southwest growing significantly, they’ve had to do so with less water (or at least the same amount of water) than a few decades ago. Many cities have been able to reduce their per capita water consumption, but it’s important to continue to be diligent about water conservation so that as cities grow, water resources don’t become even more scarce.

According to the EPA, commercial and institutional buildings use about 17% of the water from our public resources, and the largest percentage of that water use comes from domestic water use (from things like sinks and restrooms). That means there’s a lot that can be done inside a facility to conserve water.

The first thing anyone should do who wants to better understand and reduce their water use is track their water use over time. Data management tools like Fusebox and support from their team can help building managers review and analyze historic usage and alert buildings to trends that might indicate an issue like a water leak or overuse. Leaks aren’t always obvious to the human eye, but they can account for big increases on water bills. If bills aren’t reviewed against previous ones, leaks can go unnoticed for months before getting fixed, wasting water and money. Being able to see what’s going on month-to-month and year-to-year can help to uncover these types of leaks, and can also assist planning for reduction strategies with building occupants and operations.

Once data’s been reviewed and is being tracked monthly, it’s time to start implementing some reduction strategies (continuous tracking is important to measure success over time). There are some simple things building managers can consider: creating communication campaigns to remind occupants to turn off water, installing inexpensive aerators on sink faucets, and replacing old fixtures with low-flow options. For example, the guidelines for toilets have become increasingly more efficient over time. Some newer toilets flush at a rate of 1gpf (gallons per flush) compared to older toilets that might use 3-7gpf (the federal standard is now 1.6gpf). Newer technologies are also becoming available that can take equipment water reduction to a new level. Waterless urinals and composting toilets are being incorporated and tested in some facilities and can save a significant amount of water if installed and maintained properly over their lifetimes.

Other innovative technologies some buildings are looking at include rainwater and greywater reuse systems for various water needs. We’ll discuss these technologies more in our next article.

Check out Laurel’s other blog posts!