News outlets a few days ago broke the news no one wants to hear: Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, is at its lowest level since the 1930s. At 1,071.56 feet as of this writing, the lake’s water level is lower than it had been 5 years ago. As Theodore Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, puts it: “Lake Mead is only 38% full.”
Formed as a result of building the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead supplies water and electricity to nearly the entire western half of the U.S. A shortage here can mean a substantial reduction in water supply in several states. Homes, offices, and shops will have to rely on other sources like groundwater to meet their daily water needs.
At this point, conservation should be on everyone’s minds every time they open the tap, including business owners. Whatever the industry or market, water shortages can cripple an office or store’s ability to do business. So, here are some conservation ideas that experts say are worth considering:
1. Water Tanks
With reservoirs like Lake Mead drying up, people will be forced to look to unconventional sources. For the typical commercial building, rainwater and recycled water (or gray water) are highly ideal. These sources enable collection and reuse without drawing water from primary sources.
However, to make the most out of these sources, the building must have a closed system in place. In other words, it needs the proper equipment to hold rainwater or gray water and provide it on demand. The water tank will be at the heart of this system.
The ideal capacity for the water tank will depend on water usage per person in the office or store. Suppose an employee uses 150 liters a day (excluding drinking). Here’s a step-by-step calculation, as used in civil engineering projects:
- Multiply the water usage per person by working days (150 liters x 5 days = 750 liters)
- Calculate the total water usage volume (1 L = 0.001 m3, 750 liters / 1,000 = 0.75 m3)
- Get the dimensions of a specific water tank model (length, depth, and breadth)
- Multiply the tank’s dimensions to get its total capacity
- Determine if the tank’s capacity is enough to fulfill the water usage volume
As water tank capacity is usually marketed in liters, you may need to convert your volume to liters. You can get more info about the tanks you’re eyeing by consulting a specialized service.
2. Low-Flow Fixtures
Plumbing technology has come a long way since the Energy Policy Act was passed in 1992. Since then, water consumption of toilets and other fixtures have decreased dramatically.
Mark Spigarelli, a senior plumbing engineer, made a comparison of water consumption of fixtures before 1992 and after the EPA initiated its WaterSense program in 2006. Based on the data, water closets have been using 63% less water, urinals 94%, showerheads 68%, and faucets 83%. He also pointed out that many buildings in the U.S. still use pre-1992 fixtures, if not older.
Commercial properties built before 1992 should consider undergoing a plumbing retrofit to greatly reduce water consumption. A modernized plumbing network will use up less water, be it drawing from a reservoir or a water tank. It’ll also cut the risk of leaks, which can be difficult to locate and cost business owners dearly if not addressed immediately.
However, Spigarelli also pointed out that low-flow fixtures might increase the likelihood of solids buildup which can cause blockage issues. Such risks should be addressed before any retrofit work can begin and after the project through regular maintenance.
Any investment in modernizing a commercial property’s plumbing system will be in vain if people remain fixed on wasteful habits. In a 2019 report by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, a food sustainability think tank, the U.S. has the largest “water footprint” among developed nations. Every American consumes on average 7,800 liters every year, both directly and indirectly.
Cutting down this alarming statistic will demand a more proactive approach in encouraging water conservation. Management must make it a priority agenda in its next meeting to raise awareness. According to digital marketing expert Brian Hughes, employees can still end up wasting precious water inadvertently without proper orientation.
Making commercial buildings more water-efficient will undoubtedly cut into their revenue margin. But, losses from this short-term inconvenience pale in comparison to the long-term consequences of losing access to this natural resource. Saving water is more than an obligation to your business; it’s also one to the world at large.