How to Cut Back 25 Percent on Water Consumption
The average daily water consumption per person per day in the United States is about 80 to 100 gallons of water. In the home, there are some relatively simple steps that can be taken to reduce water consumption. By running the dishwasher less often and cutting back on water used to irrigate the lawn and plants, or watering them later in the evening so the water does not evaporate, homeowners can cut their water consumption by 25 percent.
But let’s say you manage an office building in California. You have been notified by the local water department to reduce water consumption in the building by 25 percent. Let’s also say your building uses 50,000 gallons of water every day for restrooms, drinking fountains, plants, irrigation of landscaping, cleaning, and other purposes. This means that your job is to reduce the building’s water consumption by 12,500 gallons per day, and you have also been instructed to do so without inconveniencing building users.
Well, guess what? Last year, in California, people in schools, homes, offices, and other facilities were told that they had to do just this: reduce their water consumption by 25 percent.
So what steps would you take to reduce water consumption in your facility?
The first thing is to rethink water and realize that the ways we have traditionally thought about water are over. Historically, most Americans have never even given a second thought to water. Except in a few cases, mostly during unusually severe drought periods, water has always been readily available, when needed and as needed. But with water shortages now becoming a way of life, that luxury is over. Now the big question for facility managers and all of us is how can we scale back the amount of water we use every day, whether at work, school, home, or play.
To help us in this quest, I asked the following questions of Klaus Reichardt, founder and CEO of Waterless Co., manufacturers of waterless urinals.
Q. What is the first step you would advise school administrators, building managers and owners, and facility managers to take in order to scale back water use?
A. The first thing to do is to make sure that you know how much water the facility is currently using. Check water bills going back a year or two. In a spreadsheet, list the amount of water consumed each month, add up the amounts, and then divide the total by the number of months to find out the average monthly consumption. It is necessary to go back 12 to 24 months because water consumption can go up and down during the course of the year.
Q. Yes, I see. This average would become our benchmark to help us determine how effective our next steps are. After learning our benchmark, what should our next steps be?
A. One of the most significant steps to take, and one that has no impact on building users, is to fix leaks. Repairing leaking fixtures and pipes can save 5 percent to as much as 10 percent of all the water consumed in a school, office, or most any other commercial facility.
Q. Where is most of the water used in a commercial facility?
A. Unless the building is landscaped, without question most of the water consumed in a commercial facility is in the restrooms. Just think about it. I am currently sitting in a 33-story office building that was built about 25 years ago. It has 66 restrooms. Each men’s room has 3 urinals, a total of 99 urinals; there are 3 faucets per restroom, totaling 198 faucets; and there are 6 toilets per restroom, which is 396 toilets. That’s 693 restroom fixtures, all using one to five gallons of water every day.
Q. Should we reduce the number of restroom fixtures; will that help?
A. No, we do not want to inconvenience the building users . . . remember, that’s part of our goal and in most cases, the number of fixtures in a commercial building is mandated by building codes.
Q. If the building is 25 years old, it must have some older restroom fixtures; should those be replaced?
A. If fixtures are 25 years old, or even more than 10 years old, which many of them are, replacing them with more water-efficient fixtures is important. For instance, according to one study, the average toilet in California (and most likely around North America) uses 2.8 gallons of water per flush (GPF). This is more than double the 1.28 GPF a high-efficiency toilet uses. There are also more than 12 million urinals installed in the United States. It is believed that more than 60 percent of those urinals still use as much as 3 GPF. Very often, building owners or managers can purchase “kits” that can reduce the GPF considerably.
As to other fixtures, faucets also consume huge volumes of water. By installing a very inexpensive aerator in each faucet, we can reduce water consumption dramatically.
Q. What about urinals? Are there water-reduction kits for those?
There are ways to tinker with a traditional urinal so that it uses less water or even no water. However, here’s the problem. A traditional urinal is made to work with water. The water flushes the urine down the drainpipe and on to the sewer. Without the right amount of water, the urinal will not work properly, likely resulting in malodors, among other concerns.
So we have three options when it comes to reducing urinal water consumption:
- Swap out all older urinals with newer urinals that use only about a gallon of water per flush for best flushing action.
- Swap out all older urinals with those using about .5 gallons per flush.
- Replace all urinals with waterless urinals.
Many building managers have opted for the third option—replacing all urinals with waterless urinals. Why? First, it typically costs far less to purchase and install a waterless urinal than a water-using urinal. Second, waterless urinals do not have the plumbing needs of traditional urinals, nor do they require flush valves of any kind—in other words, they require fewer repair costs.
In the example of the office building mentioned earlier, replacing all traditional urinals with waterless urinals would save 35,000 gallons of water per urinal annually. That’s almost 3.5 million gallons of water annually. Very simply, waterless urinals reduce water consumption dramatically. In fact, this step alone may reduce water consumption in a facility by 25 percent or more, and it also presents the least inconvenience to building users.
There is one more thing that Reichardt suggests beyond installing waterless urinals and the other steps mentioned here. And that is that we all need to always think about “water efficiency.” This means that every day whenever we use water, we have to remember to use it wisely and sparingly.
For more information about the waterless urinals we offer, check out our website. We are committed to providing the toilet-and-urinal technology that will help you improve your waste management efficiency, and also save money over the long term.