By James Laughlin
The Environmental Protection Agency and other groups around the country are promoting water efficiency as a way to conserve water, especially in areas stressed by drought or arid regions where water availability is always a concern.
Facility managers also are finding that water efficiency programs can be an effective way to reduce operating costs. Saving water can mean saving costs for electric power, gas, chemicals, and wastewater disposal. Efficient water use also can have major environmental, public health, and economic benefits by helping to improve water quality, maintain aquatic ecosystems, and protect drinking water resources.
More than 36 states expect to experience water shortages over the next 10 years, even without drought conditions, according to EPA. To address this critical issue, the Agency is planning a national program to promote water-efficient products to consumers.
EPA claims that water-efficient products meeting current standards can reduce home water use up to 30 percent and many products on the market today exceed those standards. Water-efficient products for commercial use can save up to 20 percent, and opportunities exist in the industrial sector as well. However, there isn't a national, easy-to-use guide to how consumers can locate and purchase these water-efficient products.
EPA is evaluating various public information tools to help raise awareness of the importance of water conservation and the growing demands placed on America's water supplies and water infrastructure systems.
One of the tools under consideration is a water efficient product labeling program that is based on EPA's successful Energy Star program, a government-backed program to protect the environment through energy efficiency. There is significant support for product labeling from a broad range of stakeholders including water systems, manufacturers, retailers, municipalities, states, water industry organizations and environmental groups.
A national program would seek to increase water efficiency by informing water users of the advantages of water-efficient products, motivating manufacturers to produce more water-efficient products, and encouraging distributors, retailers and local water utilities to promote these products.
As part of its promotional efforts, EPA has established a web site to discuss water efficiency. It can be found at: www.epa.gov/water/water_efficiency.html. The site contains PDF documents that list basic steps that can be taken by industrial and commercial users to begin the process of improving water efficiency.
The American Water Works Association also sponsors a water efficiency web site at www.waterwiser.org. This site features a searchable database that includes more than 120 references to industrial water conservation.
Also on the site is a free 150 page PDF document entitled Facility Manager's Guide to Water Management. The guide was prepared by the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Regional Water Conservation Committee with assistance from the engineering firm Black and Veatch. It contains a host of information on planning and implementing a water conservation program.
The first step in developing a conservation program is to examine where and how water is used in your facility. Then your staff has to make the commitment to conserve water, both at the management and operations level. While water conservation can have engineering and managerial challenges, many conservation steps can be inexpensive and simple to make. And they can have a positive impact on your bottom line.
James Laughlin, Editor