WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities
Introduction to Outdoor Water Use
Outdoor water use can account for between 5 and 30 percent of a facility’s total
water use, as shown in Figure 5-1.
Water is used outdoors for a variety of purposes,
including landscape irrigation, swimming pools, and vehicle washing. Improved
landscaping and pool maintenance practices and more efficient irrigation equipment
can provide opportunities for significant water savings.
Figure 5-1. Water Use Attributed to Outdoor Purposes
Most commercial and institutional facilities that own or maintain surrounding
landscape will have some outdoor water use associated with irrigation or landscape
maintenance. The amount of outdoor water use is dictated by the size and design of
the landscape and the need for supplemental irrigation. Not surprisingly, larger com-
plexes with larger areas of maintained landscape, such as offices, schools, and hotels,
can use as much as 30 percent of their water to maintain the health and quality of
the landscape. The amount of water used outdoors may also vary due to local climate
and facility type. For example, a 2003 study in California estimated that 72 percent of
water use in K-12 schools was used outdoors, compared to the 35 percent average
from the eight sectors studied.
Several sectors, including schools and hotels, also
consume a measurable amount of water for the operation and maintenance of pools.
Finally, some commercial buildings also use a significant amount of water to clean
their fleet of vehicles with a washing station on site.
In many instances, outdoor water use can be controlled and minimized with
proper landscape design. Regionally appropriate plant choices, healthy soils with
Created from analyzing data in: Schultz Communications. July 1999.
A Water Conservation Guide for Commercial, Institutional and Industrial Water Users
for the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.
Dziegielewski, Benedykt, et al. American Water Works Association (AWWA)
and AWWA Research Foundation. 2000.
Commercial and Institutional End Uses of Water
East Bay Municipal Utility District. 2008.
WaterSmart Guidebook: A Water-
Use Efficiency Plan Review Guide for New Businesses
Helping Businesses Manage Water Use—A Guide for Water Utilities
Gleick, Peter H., et al. Pacific Institute. 2003.
Waste Not, Want Not: The Potential for Urban Water Conservation in California
Page 83 and Appendix E.