Buildings that use water wisely save money, and reduce energy use
With buildings consuming around 20 percent of the world’s available water, there’s plenty of opportunity to use less. Not only does this benefit the environment, but it benefits the building owner who cuts utility bills and saves energy. That’s because wasting water also wastes the energy used to distribute and heat it.
Simple improvements such as fixing water leaks, switching to more efficient equipment, and teaching building users better habits can conserve water and reap big rewards. On average, using water-efficient products and fixtures can reduce water consumption by 15 percent, energy use by 10 percent, and operating costs by 12 percent*.
All types of facilities can reduce water consumption and related energy use. Phoenix Children’s Hospital upgraded to a more energy-efficient heating and cooling plant and, as a bonus, saved 5.6 million gallons per year in water-scarce Arizona. The Milwaukee County Zoo performed a complete water and energy audit, making improvements that cut water usage by 50 percent, and saving $1.4 million over 12 years.
The U.S Department of Energy reports that water rates have risen by 100 to 500 percent in the last decade and are likely to keep rising.
But there’s much more at stake than saving money – water is scarce and precious, particularly in certain geographies. A U.S. government study found that by 2013, at least 36 American states expect water shortages.
Water conservation solutions can support your sustainability goals, and win valuable green building certification. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program awards points for water use reduction, water-efficient landscaping, and innovative wastewater technologies.
Getting to work
Water efficiency initiatives follow a continuous improvement cycle: measure, manage, monitor, report.
It starts with an audit that identifies sources of waste and inefficiency. This pinpoints ways to invest in water conservation solutions:
- Fixing leakage and other sources of waste.
- Installing more efficient plumbing fixtures and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment.
- Adopting water-smart landscaping practices, like switching to drought-tolerant plantings and using in-ground sensors to trigger watering only when truly necessary.
- Integrating renewable resources through advances like solar thermal systems to save energy on water heating.
- Creating awareness and incentive programs to help your people make simple behavior changes that can cut usage significantly.
- Adding automation and controls to regulate water usage.
- Improving maintenance and operating practices to keep water-using equipment efficient and leak-free.
- Installing advanced and automated water-metering systems to monitor usage and spot trends.
- Using reliable data to assess results and establish continuous improvement strategies.
Making it pay
Water efficiency improvements can bring you quick payback. Whether you’re a private or public entity, you may qualify for grants or low-interest loans for water conservation projects under state-sponsored initiatives. You can also use performance contracting, a proven way to fund efficiency projects with no up-front investment and with annual savings guaranteed. Some of the most rewarding performance contracts combine water- and energy-saving projects in a single package.
*McGraw Hill Research, 2010.