Water can no longer be thought of as an unlimited resource. The Environmental Protection Agency has projected that, by the year 2013, a minimum of 36 states will experience local, regional or statewide shortages. Even facilities in locations where shortages are not currently projected most likely will be facing large increases in water costs as municipal systems struggle to update and expand their infrastructures to meet ever-increasing demand. The net result is that facility managers can no longer ignore facility water use.
This situation has been developing for years. But even with warning signs that water can no longer be taken for granted, not all facility managers have taken steps to reduce water consumption.
One of the most common reasons for this inaction is a lack of information. In most organizations, facility managers have a fairly good understanding of how much energy their facilities use. Not so with water. It is hard to address a problem when few understand its magnitude.
This lack of knowledge doesn’t stop with use issues. Few facility managers recognize that implementing water efficiency projects can be cost effective. Even if some recognize that technologies exist to make water use more efficient, misconceptions arising from the poor performance of early generation water-saving devices keep them from taking such strategies seriously.
Combine the lack of knowledge with the low cost of water in many areas and it is easy to understand why water efficiency has not been a focal point in facility operations. It is also easy to understand the lack of funding for water efficiency projects. Today, facility managers are faced with a combination of rising rates and use restrictions. If they are to meet these challenges without interfering with facility operations, water efficiency should be a high priority.
One of the problems facility managers have to reducing water use is the variation of water use between buildings. Different buildings, even those that serve the same type of operations, will have different types of plumbing fixtures, different HVAC systems and different irrigation requirements. Even nearly identical buildings will have differences in functions and maintenance levels that will affect water use.
For these reasons, it is important that facility managers understand that they are going to have to do some homework to determine where and how much water is being used in their facilities. Once facility managers determine where and how much water is being used, they can identify areas of potential savings.
Most facilities include only a master water meter for a building or group of buildings. Master water meters will provide the overall use in the facility, but will not say anything about where water is being used or what steps can be taken to improve water efficiency. That information can only come from an examination of all the end uses of water within the facility.
Start by identifying the areas of water use, such as restrooms, dining services, cooling towers, boilers, irrigation, and other building systems. For each use type, establish a baseline of water use under normal conditions.
For some applications, such as kitchen and lavatory faucets, flow rates can be determined using a bucket and stopwatch. For water closets and urinals, flow rates can be determined from manufacturer’s product data. Other end uses, such as cooling tower or boiler makeup water and irrigation systems, will require the installation and monitoring of submeters.
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