Updated: 3 days ago
Building Services Management, March 2022
Outdoor water use can account for between five and thirty percent of a facility’s total water use, according to the EPA’s WaterSense program, but better landscaping and more efficient irrigation equipment can provide opportunities for significant water savings in commercial settings.
Facilities can use significant amounts of water to maintain and irrigate their surrounding landscape, depending on the size and design of the landscape, local climate, and facility type. Facilities with large areas of maintained landscape, such as schools, can use as much as 30 percent of their water for landscape maintenance.
WaterSense says outdoor water use can be controlled and minimized with proper landscape design and maintenance of any supplemental irrigation systems.
The business benefits of implementing water efficiency measures within commercial and institutional facilities include reducing operation costs and creating more sustainable practices. In addition to water costs, facilities will see a decrease in energy bills because of the significant amount of energy associated with heating water.
Commercial and institutional facilities can significantly reduce water use through water-efficient fixtures, technologies and techniques.
Implementing water efficiency starts with understanding a facility’s water-using processes. Developing a water management plan, which includes conducting a facility water assessment, helps managers and owners understand how much water their facilities use, and which processes require the most water. An assessment also helps identify potential water-saving opportunities and calculates the payback periods to help prioritize options to reach water savings goals.
An office complex in Texas recently implemented water efficient practices inside and out, including improvements to its landscape and irrigation system. As a result, it has significantly decreased its outdoor water use - and won awards in the process. The complex landscape is maintained by an irrigation professional that has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense label.
When the current landscape management company took over the grounds maintenance, the system was controlled by traditional click timers and lacked proper maintenance. To improve the efficiency of the system, the complex upgraded to weather-based irrigation controllers, which analyze local weather data and landscape conditions to program watering schedules based on the needs of the plants.
In addition to installing the new controllers, the landscape management team initiated routine maintenance and repairs to the irrigation system: replacing broken sprinkler heads; positioning sprinkler heads to ensure adequate coverage; and installing pressure regulating nozzles to increase the uniformity of water applied. Rain and freeze sensors were also installed to prevent watering at unnecessary times.
The office park reduced irrigation water use by about 40 percent from the irrigation system upgrades and improvements in operation. It saved nearly 12.5 million gallons of water and $47,000 in the first year. Beyond improving the bottom line and saving water, the resulting landscape is now both healthier and more attractive.
If a facility irrigates its landscape, it could potentially be wasting water due to evaporation, wind, or runoff. Water efficient irrigation products and practices –such as native plantings, water budgeting, seasonal scheduling, or WaterSense labels weather based irrigation controllers–could cut the amount of water lost outside by as much as 50 percent.
From schools to hotels, “WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities' ' details WaterSense labeled products, practices, and proper operations, maintenance, and user education for a host of water-using technologies. Additionally, the guide offers water efficient options for equipment retrofits and replacement, as well as tips to reduce a facility’s water use and methods to evaluate the savings these efficiency measures can achieve. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2017-02/documents/watersense-at-work_final_508c3.pdf