Water-related uses account for 19% of California's electricity, 30% of its natural gas and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year. Water-efficiency measures can reduce water and sewer costs by up to 30 percent. Significant savings in energy, chemical and maintenance expenses often follow.
No-Cost Steps to Save Water
Improve Water Conservation Awareness
- Make Sure You Can Answer the Following:
- How much water is your business using now and for what purpose?
- How much does your business pay for water?
- Do you know how to read your water meter?
- Are all employees aware of the goal to conserve water?
- Is there a contact person for water use questions?
- How will employees know when they have been successful in conserving water?
Initiate an Employee Water Conservation Program
Provide water efficiency information to employees so they can incorporate water efficient retrofits and landscaping into business practices and homes and schools. For a sample program, see this checklist by the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance.
Promote Employee Participation
- Provide background information about the water conservation policy and its implications for business and person operations.
- Initiate your awareness program with a letter directed to each employee from the head of your business. The letter should describe the established conservation policies, identify the water efficiency coordinator, express full support for your business's conservation plan, and invite feedback.
- Continually emphasize the need for individual responsibility as part of a team effort to reduce water consumption.
- Establish a 'water-saving idea' box or listserv and encourage all employees to submit ideas. Respond to each suggestion offered.
- Spread the Word about Water Conservation Awareness
- Incorporate water conservation policy and procedures into training programs.
- Use office communications (staff meetings, e-mail, newsletters, paycheck stuffers) to transmit ideas, policies, progress reports and achievement announcements.
- Include financial savings resulting from water conservation programs in progress and achievement announcements.
- Post water conservation stickers, signs and posters in bathrooms, kitchens, cafeterias, conference rooms and other places where employees congregate.
- Establish Employee Incentives
- Recognize and reward those employees who submit water-saving ideas.
- Include water consumption measures in employee's job performance reviews.
- Consider motivating employees by rewarding them with a percentage of the first year's direct savings.
- Allocate water and sewer costs to each individual department to create responsibility for water efficiency.
- Organize and promote water conservation competition between divisions or teams.
Eliminate Unnecessary Water Use Inside
Is water being used in places where it is not really needed? What tasks could be easily accomplished with less water?
- Designate a water efficiency coordinator
- Educate employees on water conservation measures like turning off water while washing hands and dishes.
- Post signs to encourage water conservation in restrooms or work areas where water is used.
- Seek employee suggestions of water conservation ideas.
Simple, Low-Cost Investments to Save Water
Detect and Repair Leaks
One way to detect leaks is to shut down all water-using facilities for some time period and read the water meter before and after. Did the reading change at all? Are there dripping faucets, toilet tanks that don't seal, or leaking hoses? Toilet tanks can be checked with a few drops of food coloring. After 15 minutes without flushing, does any color show up in the bowl? Given that a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day, repair running or leaking toilets as soon as possible.
Install Water Efficient Devices
Install the following devices at your business where appropriate – faucet aerators, low flow showerheads, on-off valves on showerheads or hoses, toilet tank displacement devices, low-flow or vacuum flush toilets, and/or water-efficient chillers. As appliances wear out, replace them with water-saving models.
Eliminate Unnecessary Water Use Outside
Does water from sprinkler systems reach the plants that need it or does much of it evaporate in the air or run off? Evaporation is especially high for sprinklers that make small droplets, spray them high into the air, and operate during the hottest part of the day. Are some plants getting more water than they need? Could drought-resistant landscaping provide an equally attractive look?
- Avoid runoff. Set sprinklers to cover only lawn or garden, not sidewalks, driveways, or gutters.
- Mulch around plants and trees to retain moisture and prevent weeds.
- Minimize lawns. Lawns use more water than any other landscape plants.
- Plant native plants adapted to local climate and rainfall.
- Use drip and other low-flow irrigation devices.
- Employ electronic controllers with precise individual timing, multiple irrigation zones, multiple cycles, and attach smart landscaping irrigation equipment such as rain shut-off devices, moisture sensors, and weather based irrigation controllers.
- Use Xeriscape landscaping. Xeriscape landscaping combines planning and design, soil analysis, selection of suitable plants, practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, use of mulches, and appropriate maintenance in landscaping. Contact your local nursery to obtain more information about xeriscape ("zeer-i-skape") landscaping.
Longer Term Investments to Save Water
Water reuse and recycling require following local regulations and are most relevant to businesses using large amounts of water for irrigation or to industries that generate large quantities of wastewater. More intensive reuse systems involve collection of graywater. Graywater recycling includes capturing wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks, washing machines, and laundry tubs; it does not include wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers. Consider determining alternative management options for blackwater (sewage) that allow the water to eventually be reclaimed.
- Reuse wastewater or reclaimed water for other industrial uses, landscape irrigation, agricultural irrigation, aesthetic uses such as fountains, and fire protection, and other non potable uses.
- Recycle water for the same application for which it was originally used.
- Collect rainwater or irrigation runoff for reuse, called water harvesting.
- Use the same water to perform several cooling procedures.
Plan to Save Water
Conduct a Water Audit
A complete understanding of your business's water use is needed to identify potential water efficiency opportunities. A water audit is the process that identifies the quantities, characteristics, and uses of all water on the site. Call your local water utility to determine whether or not they provide water audit services. For information about conducting a water audit, see:
- American Water Works Association hosts free water audit software.
- Water Center.Org provides an overview of the water audit process.
- Department of Water Resources provides information about Water Use and Efficiency.
- East Bay Municipal Utility District offers a wide range of services and information for commercial businesses.
- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
- Santa Clara Valley Water District offers a free water use resources.
- San Francisco Public Utilities Commission offers a free water wise business evaluation.
- New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services published a fact sheet about Performing a Business or Industry Water Use and Conservation Audit.
The WaterSense brand is a symbol that represents the importance of water efficiency in the United States. Partners include retailers and distributors, manufacturers, landscape irrigation professionals, professional certifying organizations and promotional partners. WaterSense partners can access a variety of tools and resources to help promote both the importance of water efficiency and their partnership with EPA.
Your Local Municipal Utility District
Local municipal utilities often have water conservation and rebate programs designed for small businesses. Examples include:
- East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD)
- Pre-Rinse Spray Nozzle Program
In partnership with the Department of Water Resources, EBMUD will replace free of charge high-water use spray nozzle(s) located within restaurants, institutions, and commercial facilities with water-efficient models that can save your business water and money.
- Water Audit
EBMUD offers a commercial, industrial, and institutional audit consisting of a facility manager interview, an on-site inspection of water-using processes and/or a water use analysis during which conservation opportunities are identified.
- Pre-Rinse Spray Nozzle Program
- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
- Water and energy efficiency tips.
- Water Conservation Rebates for Business & Multi-Family Customers
Information about available rebates for a variety of water efficient equipment.
California Department of Water Resources
Developed detailed tip sheets to increase water efficiency and conservation. For sector-specific water use efficiency ideas, click the link below.
- Beverage Industry
- Business and Facility Management
- Commercial Buildings
- Parks and Commercial Landscapes
- Estimating Irrigation Water Needs
- Food Processing
- Health Care Facilities
- Hospitality Industry
- Ideas for Commercial Landscapes
University of California's Water Resource Center Archive
Collects, preserves and provides access, including many internet resources, to historical and contemporary water-related materials.
Water Saving Hero Campaign
Learn more about water conservation tips and programs/rebates provided by your local water utility. Sponsored by a partnership of Bay Area water agencies and organizations committed to water conservation.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense Program
Contains links to water efficient products, information about saving water, and details how businesses and organizations can partner with WaterSense.
American Water and Energy Savers
One the oldest and largest water conservation companies in the country. Click here for a list of forty-nine tips for saving water in an office or home setting.
AWWA Water Resources
Clearinghouse of water conservation information. Produced and maintained by the American Water Works Association Water Conservation Division and the AWWA Web team.