Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: 10 Steps for Business Water Conservation
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It’s Easy Being Green: 10 Steps for Business Water Conservation

10 steps businesses can take to lower water consumption and become environmental caretakers.

Employees at green businesses can enjoy gossiping around water filters instead of water coolers. (Flickr/attack11)
Employees at green businesses can enjoy gossiping around water filters instead of water coolers. (Flickr/attack11)

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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is often mentioned as a way for businesses to operate more sustainably and do their part to fight global warming. But conserving water is just as important. Along with reducing operating costs, taking steps to conserve water gets businesses involved in the bigger scheme of protecting a precious resource that will become even more valuable in the future. Last year’s drought in Georgia and the Southeast and low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains are just two examples of how global warming is already affecting the United States’ water resources.

Businesses, who are major consumers of water, can take several steps to make conservation a priority. Here are 10 to get started:

1. How much are you wasting? First, a business should find out how much water they are actually using. A waste audit can be very useful in determining water usage as well as other forms of wasteful practices.

2. Make a commitment and set goals. For a new program to be successful, the desire to conserve water must be present from the highest level of management on down. Top-level management should care about water conservation and be fully committed to supporting it. And they should set realistic goals for water efficiency.

3. Cut out the dripping. A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day. A leaking toilet can use 90,000 gallons of water a month. Purchasing low-flow toilets could save 50-80 gallons of water a day. Low-flow sink faucets can contribute to cost savings and less water use, along with low-flow showerheads for the locker room.

4. Ditch the water jugs. Delivered water bottles typically cost $6 to $8 for a five-gallon bottle, and they aren’t sanitary. They sit next to the cooler for long periods of time collecting dust and germs. They also take up space and the coolers have to be cleaned repeatedly. Manufacturers of bottled water are also not required to adhere to the same standards as municipal water treatment facilities. Consider investing in a water filtration system instead. These remove particles, chemicals, and bacteria and only have to be delivered once.

5. Sweep, don’t spray. When cleaning the sidewalk outside of your business, use brooms whenever possible instead of hoses.

6. Get creative with landscaping. For landscaping, use local plants that are hardy and don’t require a lot of water. If possible, water plants and grass during the coolest parts of the day or at night to lessen evaporation. Look into Xeriscaping, an innovative method of landscaping that uses only native and low-water plants.

7. Reduce printing. Paper production uses an enormous amount of water. Look to reduce the use of paper whenever possible

8. Get your employees involved. Teach water awareness at your office. Many companies have posted signs throughout their facilities, which help create an awareness of water conservation. Creating competition among employees to find ways to reduce water use is another idea. Once employees start thinking about water conservation, consumption usually decreases.

9. Be aware of equipment efficiency. As you replace the equipment at your business, be aware of how much water the new equipment will use. Equipment manufacturers are increasingly more aware of the need for water conservation and are designing pieces of equipment that require less water.

10. Monitor results. Each water bill includes your consumption history. It is possible for you to follow this history and get an immediate idea of how well your office is doing compared to last year. Use charts, graphs, and other records to keep track of your conservation progress.

Finding ways to reduce water at the office is good for the bottom line, but benefits to a business go beyond the financial. By employing water-efficient practices, businesses can convey an image of environmental stewardship to employees, customers, and the general public by helping to conserve water resources for future generations.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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