Why Water Conservation Matters to Hotels

Practical water-saving tips for lodging operators

Hotel properties are often “caught between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to conserving energy and water. They want to keep guest satisfaction high and are aware that, unfortunately, some conservation methods are not generally well-received by guests; however, they also understand they must take steps to reduce consumption, both for the greater good and because energy and water costs are escalating throughout the country.

This is especially true of water. To bring this point home, hotel managers should consider viewing a new documentary film that takes a very close—some would even say startling—look at water scarcity.

The movie, called “Last Call at the Oasis,” shows how the U.S. and other countries around the world are both overdrawing and underpricing water. As quoted in the movie, “Like an overdrawn bank account approaching zero, we will soon see the consequences.”

The movie predicts that in the not-too-distant future, water restrictions will become a common occurrence both here and in many other parts of the world. However, it also explains steps that can be taken to use water more efficiently and responsibly. These changes, many of them quite simple, can be implemented in hotel properties. Doing so can reduce water consumption and also costs. This is because water and costs are closely interconnected—as the demand for water increases, so do costs.

How can hotel managers reduce their facility’s water consumption? At the top of the list is the need to create a “water conservation culture” at your property, especially among staff. Housekeepers, maintenance personnel and other staffers are the eyes and ears of any hotel operation. With a water conservation culture in place, these people become much more aware of how water is being used in the property, and where it can be conserved.

Some other general water-savings tips specifically for hotel properties include:

• Seek staff suggestions regarding ways to reduce water consumption and increase efficiency. Remember, staff members are the eyes and ears of any good hotel operation.

• Designate at least one employee as a “water monitor” who will be responsible for keeping track of how water is being used, where it can be saved, and where it is being wasted.

• Once a water conservation effort is in place, post graphs showing the results of the program. Seeing visual proof of progress can be very motivating for staff members.

Kitchen Conservation
Hotels, like restaurants, are unique in that their food-service areas can be the most water-demanding areas of the property. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken in kitchens to reduce water consumption as well. First, how are the floors being cared for? Some restaurants use hoses or built-in pressure washing systems that essentially power wash kitchen floors. While these may be necessary when soil buildup is substantial, they use a lot of water—as much as 12 gallons per minute.

Instead, consider switching to a bucket system that dispenses a measured amount of water directly to the floor, which is then vacuumed up along with soils. Not only do these systems use less water, they also tend to be a healthier and safer way to clean commercial kitchen floors.

Other steps that can make kitchens more water efficient:

• Turning off continuous water flow systems that feed drains, trays and preparation sinks.

• Avoiding the use of running water to melt ice or frozen foods.

• Selecting water-conserving icemakers.

Common Areas, Guestrooms, Landscaping
It may come as a surprise to some, but one of the newest and most stylish hotels in Beverly Hills, California, has installed waterless urinals in their common area restrooms. For manufacturers of these devices, this is viewed as an endorsement: Not only do these systems save as much as 40,000 gallons of water per year per system, but they are also right at home in the most fashionable of settings.

Other steps managers can take in their common areas to save water include:

• Checking water sources for leaks and repairing any issues promptly.

• Installing water-usage reducing aerators wherever possible, especially in guestrooms.

• Installing low-flow toilets and waterless urinals. If this step would be too costly, inexpensive kits are available that can convert a conventional toilet into a dual-flush system, potentially saving about 10,000 gallons of water or more per toilet per year.

• Considering “dry,” shampoo, or bonnet carpet cleaning methods (cleaning carpets with conventional extractors is very water intensive).

In many properties, more water is used to irrigate vegetation than anywhere else in the facility. Sometimes simply analyzing when and where water irrigation systems are used can result in dramatic savings. In other cases, more drastic steps, such as installing more water-efficient landscaping, may be necessary.

The Bottom Line
As we have seen, there are numerous ways a hotel or motel facility can become more water conscious, ranging from simple, inexpensive changes to more costly equipment overhauls. But regardless of cost, the good news is that once a water conservation culture is firmly implanted in your facility, new and unexpected ways to reduce water consumption often become commonplace.

A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt is founder and CEO of Waterless Co. Inc, Vista, CA. Reichardt founded the company in 1991 with the goal to establish a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water conservation in mind. The company's key product, the Waterless No-Flush urinal, works completely without water and was invented by Reichardt. He may be reached at Klaus@waterless.com.

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