Water rates are on the rise in the U.S., thanks in part to record-breaking drought conditions in many parts of the country. A 2011 study on commercial water consumption revealed the average customer’s water rates in the U.S. rose 5.5 percent in 2011 from the previous year. In Kansas City, Kan., businesses were hit with a 15.3 percent year-over-year increase, and the city of Portland, Ore., upped water rates 9 percent for businesses that same year. Here are seven water-saving tips to help keep your enterprise afloat.
1. Discuss water use with new hires. “When it comes to looking at ways to reduce our footprint, we very much see a direct correlation between reducing our costs and engaging our employees,” says Carrie Freeman, corporate sustainability strategist for Intel, in a report [PDF] produced by Green Impact. In addition, put up posters in employee break rooms and bathrooms that suggest ways to use less water at work.
2. Take advantage of incentives for water-saving technology. Many municipalities offer tempting cash incentives for small businesses that reduce water consumption. For example, the Water Smart Technology Program in Seattle offers $100 cash rebates to businesses that install more efficient flush-valve toilets and pays up to $1,500 to restaurants that replace inefficient food steamers.
3. Tap water utilities for conservation ideas. If you’re a heavy user of water and your usage unexpectedly jumps, it may pay to hire an expert to find potential leaks in underground pipes. Geographical locations that experience
earthquakes and ground tremors and wide swings in temperature are prone to disruptions in underground pipes.
4. Trade greener grass for cash. Xeriscaping not only saves water but also time (compared with the upkeep of traditional landscaping). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the typical suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons of water annually, in addition to rainfall. In addition to conserving water, native vegetation requires less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.
5. Calculate the cost of ongoing leaks. The U.S. Department of the Interior maintains this online drip calculator to help you get a handle on just how much money is going down the drain. Hot-water drips also waste the energy required to heat the water.
6. Consider alternatives to water for cleaning tasks. According to Environmental Leader, the wall-mounted cleaning systems used to hose down commercial floors dispense up to 600 gallons of water per hour. Instead, sweep sidewalks and mop kitchen floors. Run the dishwasher only when full — and skip the pre-rinse cycle.
7. Join forces with others who support your efforts. The Partnership for Water Conservation aims to help Seattle businesses cut water use in half by 2030; to this end, the nonprofit offers workshops for small-business owners on how to conserve. Many states, municipalities, and nonprofits offer technical assistance to small businesses on how to cut water use, too. Check with your local government or water utility on what help may be available to you.