Turning up the heat – Water conservation strategies in FM
The recent bouts of summer sun may have seen an increase in beer garden visits and lobster-red suntans, but the heatwaves flaring up across the globe highlight the potential threat of water shortages in the near future. Although this may not be a top priority for Facilities Management professionals now, increasing demands on water supplies, population growth and intensifying pressure on corporate responsibility could mean that water conservation strategies will become more and more important as time goes on. Here we look at some of the many ways FM professionals can evaluate and adjust their building and site practices to save water, energy, and operating costs.
Tracking Water Use
The first port of call for any water conservation strategy is analysis – you need to understand how water is being used before you can change things. First, identify the key use types: toilets, kitchens, cooling tower make-up, or other processes. Sub-metering and monitoring these areas will allow you to have a better understanding of water usage as well as providing all-important KPI information. This will also allow you to more easily identify trouble areas and problems within the building’s systems. By evaluating and determining how various systems use water, projects can be implemented to effectively reduce water use.
Rainwater harvesting systems are becoming far more commonplace across the world and here in the UK. This strategy is obviously heavily dependent upon the type of facility being managed, however it can be a viable option where a building requires a high demand for non-potable water. Uses of stored rainwater include laundry, toilet and urinal flushing, car washing, and ornamental water features.
Many breakthroughs have been made in building water systems. These results have led to the replacement of large water-consuming fixtures with low-flow water fixtures. Aerators for faucets, reduced-flow shower heads, and high-efficiency toilet and urinal flush valves often pay back the investment in less than a year, especially when they are used often. Low-flow fixtures in themselves are not a remedy as they don’t save you water if you are filling a pot, getting a glass of water, or doing other things that require a fixed volume of water. They do, however, save a significant amount of water when the number of usages is held constant.
Unfortunately, leaks often go undetected, particularly if a facility is not routinely monitoring its water use. On average, leaks can account for more than 6% of a facility’s total water use. Identifying and repairing leaks and other water use anomalies within a facility’s water distribution system or from particular processes or equipment can keep you from wasting significant quantities of water.
An aggressive leak detection and repair program can help Facility Managers better understand their building water use and save money by avoiding water waste. Reading meters, installing failure abatement technologies, and conducting visual and auditory inspections are important best practices to detect leaks. To reduce unnecessary water loss, all detected leaks should be repaired as quickly as possible.
Water conservation is not only about innovation and good design practices, but also about building an understanding among water consumers to work together to achieve a greener and more energy-efficient environment. It is important to educate users about water scarcity issues and the impact of water conservation practices. The conservation of water reduces water waste and energy costs too, on both operation and production. Educated consumers will be better able to identify problems and think innovatively about ways to conserve or reuse water within the facility. Not only will the work environment benefit, but these tools can be taken back to the home, where individuals and families can use these practices to play an even larger role in the preservation of rapidly dwindling fresh water resources.