A 5 Step Guide for Combating Rising Water Costs

Joy Fryer

What is driving your 2014 resource management strategy? According to our recent survey, costs continue to be a primary driver for energy and sustainability programs in 2014. After several years of tightening our belts and working to improve energy efficiencies, many industry professionals will further incorporate water management as an immediate opportunity for cost savings.

Our survey revealed that water is viewed as the second largest area of opportunity for savings and improvement, behind energy.

While water costs makeup a relatively small portion of overall utility expenses, we’ve watched water prices climb nearly 30 percent in the past four years, so it is no wonder that is a growing priority for multi-site corporations.

So what can you do to combat rising water costs?

1.) FOCUS ON USE, NOT RATES

Many expect water rates to continue to rise as the U.S. faces broad water scarcity and long-standing drought―that’s the bad news. The good news is that managing water consumption is a fairly straightforward process with little capital expense required. Compared to large industrial or agricultural operations, most businesses have basic water needs―bathrooms, kitchens, washrooms, cleaning and landscape irrigation. While water management opportunities will vary greatly by industry, each can follow a similar process to optimize savings.

2.) START WITH YOUR INVOICE DATA

We’ve seen clients experience great success with effective water management, including G6 Hospitality, operating over 1,100 Motel 6 hotels across the North America, and casual dining restaurant Shari’s Restaurants and Pies.

Companies should compile at least a year’s worth of invoices to compare usage trends across all sites. Focus on locations where water use and/or cost exceed the “norm”―to perhaps uncover leaks or employee behaviors that need to be addressed. This activity alone can contribute valuable savings― Ecova identified potential water leaks, resulting in an excess of $74 M in savings for our clients between 2011 to 2013. Baseline reports and ongoing analysis also helped identify 619 water and gas leaks, contributing about $1.1 M in cost avoidance for G6.

3.) IDENTIFY YOUR OUTLIERS

Taking it a step further, data analysis can empower intelligent decision making and provides focus for high-impact tasks. Because water costs vary greatly across geographical regions, invoices should be analyzed for the volume of water used, in addition to the overall costs.

4.) UTILIZE LOW-COST WAYS TO REDUCE WATER USE

Low flow fixtures and devices such as faucet aerators in kitchens can reduce the flow of water while maintaining needed water pressure. Shari’s saved $300,000 by installing aerators on faucets, cutting water consumption by approximately 5 million gallons a year.

5.) SCHEDULE ONSITE ASSESSMENTS TO HELP GUIDE CAPITAL PROJECTS

As you gather additional data and greater trends analysis, you will understand which sites are consistently underperforming and may be worth investing capital funds. To better understand the opportunities within an underperforming site, an on-site audit or assessment will identify the root cause for inefficiencies and should include a prioritized set of recommendations to improve performance.

Before you invest capital funds in efficiency improvements, be sure to identify rebates and incentives that can help fund your investment. Currently Austin, Texas is offering a 75% rebate for water audits. Similar programs are typically sponsored by the local utility, municipality, city or state and can be found for energy as well as water.

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