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Although some water efficiency measures are best suited to new construction, many others work in existing buildings. “If you haven’t started water efficiency measures, please, by all means, do the simple things first,” says Doug Bennett, conservation manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Replacing inefficient plumbing fixtures and adding aerators to faucets are two common ways to start.
An EPA program called WaterSense can help facility executives make informed choices about efficient plumbing fixtures. The program offers a certification for high-efficiency toilets that use a maximum of 1.28 gallons per flush, as opposed to the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. WaterSense also includes performance standards and independent testing to verify that performance, so facility executives can rest assured that WaterSense-labeled products will perform as well as or better than their non-efficient counterparts. If buildings are more than 15 years old, there’s a good chance there are many water inefficient plumbing fixtures installed in those buildings.
“Pay attention to how maintenance uses water,” says Stephen Estes-Smargiassi, director of planning for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. “You may be spray-washing with an efficient hose. But, more fundamentally, ask if powerwashing even needs to be done.”
It’s also important to stress education about water efficiency for both management and maintenance personnel, says Val Little, director of the Water Conservation Alliance of Southern Arizona. One possibility, she says, is training staff as water auditors or GreenPlumbers — two “designations” becoming more prominent. Training programs for these two designations can help staff identify areas where water efficiency gains can be made.
And there are always ways to save. “I’ve yet to find a company or building that looked and didn’t find opportunities for savings,” says Estes-Smargiassi.
Water Efficiency: What to Do First