Save Water, Save Money with Conservation Strategies

April 16, 2014

Water conservation case studies show a well of savings.

If you’re trying to cut operating costs, it’s common to look at slick energy management projects, jazzy HVAC upgrades, or fancy LED fixtures. But tactics for water conservation may be slipping through the cracks.

Saving water is a low-hanging opportunity that can yield fruitful returns. Costs are reduced by tens of thousands of dollars, and paybacks can be as little as one year.

(Photo: Modern silver cistern collects rainwater, using green architecture.)

Heed these success stories and implement similar strategies at your site.

Campus Cuts Through SustainabilityTulsa Community: College – Tulsa, OK

Water conservation can take place on a grand scale. After extensive measurement of this campus’s water consumption, analysis of historical use, and consideration of facility demographics, WMI found four key measures:

  • Sustainability could be improved with rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, and solar thermal measures.
  • Non-domestic kitchen equipment could be optimized by installing efficient dishwashers, ice machines, and pre-rinse sprayers.
  • Replacement and retrofits of domestic fixtures with low-flow options would yield significant savings.
  • Cooling tower sub-metering would reveal future action items.

The site now features 2,050 square feet of rain gardens, a 1,700-gallon cistern to harvest rainwater for irrigation, and six solar panels combined with two tanks in a solar thermal hot water system. Over 700 toilets and urinals and 600 faucets and showerheads were replaced with low-flow fixtures.

[Read also: Water Conservation for Your Landscaping]

To eliminate unnecessary utility charges, the supply and blow-down lines on 20 cooling towers were sub-metered, which allowed the college to receive sewer abatement credit for the amount of water lost to drift or evaporation. This measure eliminated approximately 70 percent of the billable sewer charges for cooling tower consumption, lowering the price per 1,000 gallons by over half.

Implementation of these efforts resulted in $130,000 in annual water savings and a payback of less than six years.

Office Ogles Valve Upgrades
Lenkin Properties – Washington, D.C.

This eight-story, 103,284-square-foot building on the northwest side of the city provides high-quality office space for tenants, but the property pays all utility expenses. Motivated to control costs and conserve water, the manager implemented efficiency upgrades at the site.

Water Management, Inc. (WMI), a conservation consultant, was enlisted to perform valve replacements on existing toilets, install new ADA-compliant toilets with piston valves, and replace urinal piston valves. The cost of the project was $17,740.

The average simple payback of implementing these measures was 1.08 years. It cut the property’s water bill in half and saves approximately $16,000 per year in utility costs.

[Related: The ADA Compliant Restroom]

Hospital Hones in on Steam TrapsHershey Medical Center – Hershey, PA

Water has a wider range of uses than faucets and toilets. This 2-million-square-foot medical complex was utilizing an excess amount of steam for various mechanical and heating purposes.

In conjunction with Johnson Controls, the hospital and WMI performed a steam trap audit to analyze the network’s efficiency.

They concluded that on average 20 percent of all steam traps were malfunctioning. This resulted in 629 steam traps requiring replacement.

Additionally, in 39 locations, new atmospheric vacuum breakers needed to be installed because existing air handlers either had outdated breakers, thermostatic traps, or check valves installed backwards.

These relatively simple maneuvers saved the hospital over $230,000 annually and produced a payback of just over two years.

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