Water is the most important natural resource we have on this earth. According to one source, less than 2% of the Earth’s water supply is actually fresh water, 97% of the water on earth is salt water in oceans and seas, and only 1% is available for drinking water. How much of that 1% is completely wasted, flowing down the drain as drips from an unattended faucet or an undetected leak buried beneath a sidwalk?
As America begins to see the need for recycling we also are learning to cut back on things and recycle and reuse other things. We have become informed about taking shorter showers, running the dishwasher and washing machines only on full loads, and turning the water off while brushing our teeth. All these practices have begun to be used in residences across the country. With all these changes in the private sector we haven’t seen very many changes in the business sector.
Businesses across the country use a tremendous amount of water in their restrooms and break rooms. Not only because of the number of employees but also the patrons that go in and out throughout the day. The fact is water use isn’t at the top of any business priority list especially in regions where water shortages aren’t an everyday concern. However, it should get more attention because environmental scientists expect worldwide shortages of fresh water to be one of the most pressing environmental concerns in the next 50 years. Populations will be nearing 10 billion and water and utility rates will have continued to rise as well. Therefore water use will have gotten more expensive and it is one of the expenses that is easiest to shave off the amount used.
Businesses can actually find out where they use the most water and how much of it they are using as well as how much of it they are wasting. Water Audits are fairly unknown at this point, but as more information finds its way around the country, businesses will find it’s a very useful tool in trimming budgets. A commercial water audit examines how much water a business uses and provides detailed information on where opportunities lie for using less water thus saving business money. Audits can also identify costly water leaks that need to be repaired. Once a business has a completed water audit they can begin making changes that will essentially lower their water use as well as trim their utility budget.
The new terminology in water conservation is Go Low-Flow. Restroom and break room faucets that are equipped with low-flow aerators actually lower the water usage from 2.2 gallons per minute to 1.5 gallons per minute. Older toilets also use 5 gallons of water with every flush, new high efficiency toilets use 2 gallons per flush. Last but equally important is the drinking water cooler. Most businesses provide filtered or treated drinking water so staff isn’t required to drink the chlorinated water out of the tap. These drinking water systems can be water savers or wasters depending on the type and age of system installed. New cutting edge systems on the market today are geared more toward the water conservation side than the old ones. Traditional reverse osmosis systems didn’t give any thought to the amount of water used to make a gallon of drinking water. The new systems have given this a lot of thought and have come up with new technology that doesn’t require the use of several gallons of water to treat one gallon of drinking water. All of these changes are huge on water conservation and low on cost.
The next area most businesses can look to for water conservation is the landscaping. Huge lush green lawns are usually the decoration for big business buildings. However, this is expensive decoration because it takes a lot of water to maintain that lush greenery. Businesses can consider planting a more native landscape or install a rain-harvesting system for landscape irrigation. Both of these choices would significantly reduce the amount of water used outside the building.
As always, informed people make informed choices. Bringing employees in on the project will also help with water savings. Reminding everyone to be aware of their water usage will help them all to be reminded of turning the faucet off right away instead of letting it run while they reach for a towel. Every little change makes a difference in how much water is used and how much is wasted. After all we only have 1% of all the water on the earth to work with for drinking water; we need to work on conserving it.