We posted this blog below last May after a webinar addressing the rising costs of water. Given the recent restrictions on water in California, we wanted to dust it off as these best practices are still relevant to companies needing to understand and manage their water consumption.
Water Rates Are Increasing
Ecova manages over 2.5 billion data points in our Big Data Warehouse that we use to analyze trends and determine key findings for our clients. Since 2008, we’ve managed expenses for over 1 trillion gallons of water―that’s a lot of water flowing through sinks, toilets and irrigation systems at facilities around the country! Over the last five years we’ve seen, on average across the U.S., more than a 30 percent increase in water rates for our clients. Water costs are rising across all industries and building types from offices and retail to industrial facilities. Several states have seen 40 percent or more per unit cost increases since 2008, and the regional variation adds further complexity to the challenge. Add these increases to the fact that utility expenses are typically the third highest controllable expense (and water/sewer costs can be up to a third of total utilities), and there is reason to be concerned.
Industry Drivers Increase Water Rates
Aging infrastructure, droughts, and rising energy prices are putting upward pressure on water rates. Energy as a water cost driver may seem counter-intuitive; however, extracting, conveying, and pumping water into storage facilities requires power―not to mention wastewater treatment energy demand. Lastly, there are no alternate providers. Unlike being able to shop around for energy in deregulated markets, there is no such opportunity when it comes to water. Unit prices are, for the most part, uncontrollable.
GET EXPENSE DATA IN ORDER
Manage and analyze bills to gain insight into consumption at the site level. Use this analysis to identify and respond to billing errors and gain transparency and insights on spikes or high consumption locations, which could mean incorrect meter reads or water leaks.
ENGAGE EMPLOYEES & UNDERSTAND HOW WATER IS USED INTERNALLY
Encourage employees to keep an eye out for leaks and to adapt behaviors to conserve water. Repairing water leaks in faucets and sinks can add up to real savings, along with water conservation practices.
CHANGE INTERNAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND LOOK OUTSIDE THE BUILDING
Controlling or modifying equipment can be a challenge given degradation due to age or improper use or installations, so look for opportunities to upgrade equipment to higher efficiency options. Investigate water efficiency low-cost and capital investments, as well as equipment specifications for new construction/remodel sites. The EPA’s WaterSense program can help identify products (think ENERGY STAR® for water). Lastly, don’t forget to look outside the building at water consumption associated with irrigation. Are sprinklers watering parking lots instead of landscaping, or are they on when it’s raining? There are opportunities to revise settings and/or install advanced and smart irrigation controls to avoid pouring money down the drain.
The business case is clear for investing in a water management program given the upward trending rates of water over the last five years and the likelihood high rates will continue. I encourage you to spend thirty minutes to watch the water webinar to learn how to create a successful water management program.
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