Water Watch: County's Projects Deliver Savings

  March 20, 2015

Maintenance and engineering managers at institutional and commercial facilities plan with sustainability and energy savings priorities in mind. In county government, where officials often ask their residents to participate in recycling or other energy-saving programs, it is only appropriate that the agency do its part.

Through a series of projects that saved thousands of dollars on water bills and preserved millions of gallons of water, Florida's Leon County, which includes the city of Tallahassee, set an example for its residents that a commitment to water conservation helps the environment and the bottom line.

One such upgrade took place at the 41,400-square-foot sheriff's administration facility. The project reduced yearly water use 161,000 gallons — resulting in savings of $745 yearly. The county replaced about a dozen 3.5 gpf toilets with 1.6 gpf models and installed aerators on 10 lavatory sinks to reduce gallons per use from 2 to 0.5. A 1 gpf urinal also replaced a 1.5 gpf model.

The county outsourced both the jail and sheriff's facilities work, but Brantley negotiated the price, reviewed designs, specified products, conducted work inspections, and reviewed and approved pay requests. The plumbing retrofits generated water savings for the county.

"We do have a desire for doubling back and paying some more attention to the water projects," says Tom Brantley, director of facilities management. "But we've got competing interests. We're a local government, and we've got competing interests for every dollar we have every year. These projects have to show some attractiveness. I don't feel these projects have really showed quite the attractiveness as other projects we have performed in the past."

The success of the jail retrofit has the county looking at opportunities in other county buildings to use the valve technology and limit flushing opportunities. Public facilities such as jails and courthouses are susceptible to disgruntled people who might leave a restroom's water running intentionally. If water floods a floor for extended periods of time over a weekend when the building is closed, repair costs can soar.

"We have looked into possibly performing a similar retrofit of valves at the Leon County Courthouse, similar in scope to the sheriff's administration facility, and installing it using county staff," Brantley says. "However, the necessary $75,000-80,000 in project funds would need to be approved for this work. The savings could easily top $80,000-$90,000 a year."

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