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Today's tip is about why water efficiency should be a priority for facility managers.
Last year, more than 60 percent of the U.S. experienced at least moderate drought conditions. The droughts highlight again the increasing value of water. You may have heard the expression several times in the last few years: "Water is the new energy."
Some see that statement as hyperbole. Indeed, many facility managers, even in drought-affected regions, can still point to their water and sewer bills and calculate the total as only a small fraction of a facility's energy bill. But that certainly doesn’t mean water should be ignored.
Though still a small percentage of a facility's operating budget, water is getting more expensive. Much of the studies showing water rate rises are for residential rates— like a study last year published by Circle of Blue shows water rates in 30 major cities have risen an average of 17.9 percent since 2010. The particular study also points out that the cost of water is rising much quicker than inflation. And it doesn't take a water consultant to figure out that in cities where the residential water rate is rising rapidly, so is the commercial.
ASHRAE and the U.S. Green Building Council are two organizations that see the writing on the wall in terms of the importance of reducing building water use. ASHRAE is hard at work on a new standard, 191, Standard for the Efficient Use of Water in Building, Site and Mechanical Systems. According to ASHRAE, "the purpose of this standard is to provide baseline requirements for the design of buildings, landscapes, and mechanical systems that minimizes the volume of water required to operate HVAC systems, plumbing systems, common building special process systems, cleaning systems and irrigation systems."
And USGBC is adding much more weight to the Water Efficiency section of its signature LEED rating system (especially in LEED-EBOM) when the new version is released later this year.
Water efficiency advocates say now is the time to look at your facility's water use - and make reducing a priority. Do a water audit. Calculate return on investments for simple upgrades. Start an education campaign for occupants in your buildings emphasizing the importance of being water conscious.