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Getting Started

WaterSense Commercial Getting Started

Making the Business Case

Water management WorkersOver the past ten years, the costs of water and wastewater services have risen at a rate well above the consumer price index. Facility managers can expect these and other utility costs to continue to increase in order to offset the costs of replacing aging water supply systems. As a result, businesses are becoming increasingly more aware of the need to manage and use water more efficiently to reduce operating costs; energy needed to heat, store, and deliver water; and the risk of water shortages.

Carrying out and communicating water efficiency efforts can position companies and facility managers as leaders in their community who are helping to improve sustainability—and earn them recognition in the green marketplace.By implementing water-efficient best management practices, commercial and institutional facilities have an opportunity to:

  • Achieve cost savings
  • Increase competitive advantage
  • Reduce risks associated with water scarcity
  • Demonstrate leadership
  • Access opportunities in the green building marketplace

Commercial water conservation inspectionSection 1.1 of WaterSense at Work(308 pp, 6 MB, About PDFhighlights some of the benefits of water efficiency for commercial and institutional facilities. Read about the experiences of Providence Hospital in Olympia, Washington. 

  • Planning

    Effective water management starts with planning. To achieve water management goals, facilities should consider forming water management teams to evaluate water use, develop implementation plans, measure progress, make ongoing improvements, and identify new savings goals and opportunities. Appendix B of WaterSense at Work(308 pp, 6 MB, About PDF) includes sample worksheets that can help with water management planning.

    Water management planning generally addresses water use reductions in four areas:

    • Reducing water losses (e.g., leaks).
    • Increasing the water efficiency of fixtures, equipment, systems, and processes.
    • Educating employees and occupants about water efficiency to encourage water-saving behaviors.
    • Reusing onsite alternative water that would otherwise be discarded or discharged to the sewer (e.g., reusing treated graywater or rainwater to water landscape areas).

    Water management planning follows the same framework used in the ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management, which consists of these basic steps:

    • Step 1. Making a commitment
    • Step 2. Assessing facility water use
    • Step 3. Setting and communicating goals
    • Step 4.  Creating an action plan
    • Step 5.  Implementing the action plan
    • Step 6. Evaluating progress
    • Step 7. Recognizing achievement

    Periodic reviews of plans by the water management team can demonstrate and promote the success of the water management program, which can provide long-term support for the program and future projects and initiatives.

  • Metering

    WaterSense Commercial Conservation MeterYou can't manage what you don't measure. Using meters and submeters as measurement tools, facility managers can:

    • Identify areas for targeted reductions in water use
    • Track progress from water-efficiency upgrades
    • Find and fix leaks and identify malfunctioning equipment
    • Identify opportunities to increase water savings
    • Track savings from water efficiency projects

    Meters and submeters can be integrated into a centralized building management system, making it easy to track usage and implement a water management plan. These systems can store data from meters and submeters, reporting hourly, daily, monthly, and annual water use. They can also trigger alerts when leaks or other operational anomalies are detected.

    Installing the correct meter and making sure it functions properly are critical to accurate water measurement. There are many different types and sizes of meters, so it is important to choose the correct one. Section 2.1: Metering and Submetering of WaterSense at Work(308 pp, 6 MB, About PDF) provides information about best practices for meter selection and use.

  • Leaks

    When looking for water-saving opportunities, leaks should be a first area to target. On average, leaks can account for more than 6 percent of a facility’s total water use. Leaks often go undetected, particularly if a facility is not routinely monitoring its water use. As described in the table below, water leaks can add up over time.

    Potential Losses From Water Leaks

    Malfunction  Leaking Flow Rate (gallons per minute) Water Loss  Estimated Cost of Water Loss
    Leaking Toilet  0.5 gpm  21,600 gallons per month  $2,100 per year
    Drip Irrigation Malfunction  1.0 gpm  43,200 gallons per month  $4,300 per year
    Unattended Water Hose at Night  10.0 gpm  5,400 gallons per day  $16,000 per year
    Broken Distribution Line For:
    One Night
    One Day
    One Week
    One Month 

    15.0 gpm
    15.0 gpm
    15.0 gpm
    15.0 gpm

    8,100 gallons
    21,600 gallons
    151,200 gallons
    648,000 gallons 

    Up to $64,000 per year
    Tempering Water Line on a Steam Sterilizer Stuck in the On Position  2.0 gpm  86,400 gallons per month  $8,600 per year
    Stuck Float Valve in a Cooling Tower 5.0 gpm  216,000 gallon per month  $21,000 per year

    Identifying and repairing leaks and other water use irregularities within a facility’s water distribution system or from particular processes or equipment can keep a facility from wasting significant amounts of water.  With a few simple steps, a facility can establish a comprehensive leak detection and repair program that can save water, money, time, and expenses. Section 2.3: Leak Detection and Repair of WaterSense at Work(308 pp, 6 MB, About PDF) provides information about best practices for developing leak management programs.