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Water Woes: Locating the Sources of Waste


New plumbing products and systems have come a long way in terms of performance and water conservation in recent years. Unfortunately, restrooms in many institutional and commercial facilities continue to use outdated, inefficient plumbing fixtures, valves, toilets and faucets that contribute to water waste and drive up utility costs.

By identifying top water wasters in restrooms and fine-tuning inspection, maintenance, and monitoring procedures, maintenance and engineering managers can eliminate or minimize water waste. Beyond that, they can use benchmarks to determine whether a plumbing retrofit is the most appropriate course of action.

Outdated technology, piping leaks, and seal leaks are three of the top water-wasters in restroom plumbing systems. Old fixtures — those made before 1992, when regulations on low-flow showerheads, toilets, urinals, and sink faucets went into effect — used twice as much water as newer fixtures. This combination can make it difficult for managers to hold the line on utility budgets, especially when added to continued water and sewer rate increases.

Vigilance is the best defense against wasted water in restroom plumbing systems. The sooner technicians can identify the source, the quicker they can prevent water waste. Regular, preventive inspections are the surest way to spot and correct problems.

One waste-reducing strategy is submetering, which measures the flows in various areas and can help managers determine which buildings or systems are the biggest users and wasters. One quick way to determine the presence of leaks is to read the meter at two-hour intervals when no water is being used. The difference between the two is water wasted from leaks. With this comparison, managers can focus conservation efforts and resources on projects and produce the largest paybacks.

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