How to Avoid Drowning in Water Costs
There’s no denying it – water is increasingly becoming an important issue. California is currently experiencing an unprecedented drought, and new studies suggest there will be a worldwide water shortage by 2040. As water becomes scarcer, prices will continue to skyrocket. Already, water prices have increased by 30 percent since 2008.
From office buildings to malls and industrial facilities, the cost of water is impacting all industries. Unlike being able to shop around for energy in deregulated markets, there is no such opportunity when it comes to water. This further indicates that water management is imperative for any business. Yet knowing where to start can be daunting, especially for those that have a portfolio of sites in the tens, hundreds or thousands.
While water management opportunities can vary by industry, there are a few best practices that can be followed by all to optimize savings.
1. Harness Data
According to a recent poll from an Ecova webinar, 44 percent of respondents indicated that access to data and analytics to prioritize water management is one of their main obstacles. Without insight into how your organizing is consuming water, you will likely end up drowning in water costs. The first place to start is with your own utility bills. By managing and analyzing invoice data, organizations can gain better insight into water consumption at the regional or site level and needed areas of improvements.This activity alone can contribute valuable savings.
Tools that help manage and analyze water consumption can provide a direct view into the portfolio’s average energy and water consumption, and even compares consumption to peers, leading to greater transparency into high consumption locations, incorrect meter reads or water leaks.
2. Upgrade Internal Infrastructure
Controlling or modifying equipment can be a challenge given degradation due to age or improper use of installations. As you gather additional data and trends analysis, you will be able to understand which sites are consistently underperforming and may be worth investing in capital funds. Investigate opportunities for low-cost or capital investments, as well as opportunities to upgrade equipment to higher efficiency options. Low flow fixtures and devices, such as faucet aerators in kitchens, can reduce the flow of water while maintaining needed water pressure. For instance, Shari’s saved $300,000 and cut water consumption by approximately 5 million gallons a year just by installing aerators on faucets. The EPA’s WaterSense program can also help identify water efficient products (think ENERGY STAR for water).
3. Identify Rebates
Rebates and incentives can help fund upgrades or offer rewards for meeting efficiency standards. For example, Austin, Texas offers a 75 percent rebate to its industrial and commercial customers for water efficiency audits. The rebate is intended to encourage customers to identify potential water and cost savings, and also help to alleviate drought in the area. Similar programs are available in other areas and are often sponsored by the local utility, municipality, city or state.
4. Look Outside
Don’t forget to look outside the building at water consumption associated with irrigation. Are sprinklers watering parking lots instead of landscaping, or are they on when it’s raining? There are opportunities to revise settings and/or install advanced and smart irrigation controls to avoid pouring money down the drain.
At the end of the day, it all starts with data. Knowledge is power, and having accurate data at your fingertips will empower you and your organization to consume water responsibly and sustainably. Despite imminent water shortages, water should not be feared. Instead, a strong water management program will create a strong organization that is resilient and prepared for environmental change.
Bob Zak is senior vice president of facility solutions at Ecova.
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