Jun 06, 2017

Five Steps to Reduce Water Waste

Employee engagement & commitment are vital to success

Water scarcity is a globally recognized problem. The world is projected to face a 40% water deficit by 2030, according to the United Nations 2015 World Water Development Report. While this issue is gaining public attention, many of us are not aware of our personal or professional water footprints.

Because industrial and manufacturing facilities are among the leading users of water, adopting better water management practices can have a substantial impact on both the environment and the company’s bottom line.

Recently, major corporations like Coca-Cola Co., MillerCoors and Johnson & Johnson have implemented far-reaching water conservation techniques to reduce demand on limited water resources. Those efforts have resulted in reduced energy consumption and significant cost savings.

Case in point is Johnson & Johnson. The company decreased absolute water use by 9.5% from 2005 to 2010 through a variety of water management efforts, including use of treated wastewater for manufacturing, irrigation and toilet flushing; piping modifications and installation of water storage tanks and auto-close taps; employee training on water conservation; rain harvesting; and taking steps toward zero-discharge wastewater treatment. Using its 2010 consumption as a baseline, the global organization further reduced its water use volume by 7.2% by 2015 as a result of site-specific water conservation measures and energy efficiency projects.

It takes commitment to set a big goal like Johnson & Johnson’s, and strong results require employee engagement and commitment to reduce water waste. Following are five steps to achieve better water efficiency and potential cost savings from reduced water use in your organization.

Define Issues & Outcomes

Better managing and reducing a company’s water use start by developing a problem statement with an achievable goal. This goal can be to reduce risks associated with water scarcity, increase your organization’s competitive advantage or achieve cost savings. An additional benefit in all these cases is building a culture of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Measure Water Consumption

Creating a water management plan should begin with a review of how much water is regularly used at your facilities. Start measuring water consumption and set tangible targets. Install meters and take regular readings to determine where the areas of greatest use are.

Knowing water costs is another crucial aspect of the measurement and target-setting phase. A water management plan grounded in potential cost and environmental savings will gain buy-in from key stakeholders.

Also, consider getting a professional water audit to gain a better understanding of how much water each facility uses and which processes require the most water. An audit also sets a baseline for average water consumption and provides detailed information on opportunities for using less.

If a commercial audit is beyond the budget, create an internal team to examine water consumption. This is a great opportunity for employees to volunteer and drive engagement.

Copyright: Sharpshutter/123RF Stock Photo

Analyze Results

After measuring overall water consumption, the next step is to assess the most significant water use and compare that to industry benchmarks for improvement. During the analysis step, Xylem suggests asking and answering the following questions:

  • Who monitors and manages the water system?
  • How old are faucets, toilets, water dispensers and irrigation systems in these facilities?
  • Has the irrigation system been optimized for time of day, season, location and need?
  • How can cooling tower efficiency be improved?
  • Have industrial and manufacturing processes been optimized?

Providing your management team with the tools and best practices for water conservation will enable them to select the best approaches to reduce your company’s water use and costs.

Improve Water Consumption

Armed with the information gathered during the measurement and analysis steps, it is time to develop and implement a water management plan. Start with a few quick wins or realistic goals. Some improvements are relatively inexpensive and simple to implement, such as detecting leaking pipes, fixtures, appliances and equipment; installing low-flow restrictors on faucets; replacing old toilets; planting less water-intensive landscapes; and reclaiming used water. For industrial facilities, consider a zero-discharge water management plan centered on water reuse.

After executing these quick fixes, the management team can present a strategy and timetable for implementing and assessing more comprehensive water-saving measures.

Control Water Reduction Efforts

Once the company has implemented water-saving practices, the work is far from done. To ensure ongoing success, it is critical to measure performance against the desired outcomes established at the beginning of this process. Create a monitoring and control system to regularly report progress, motivate departments and facilities, and recognize and reward successes. Most importantly, engage employees.

Communicate the company’s commitment to reducing water consumption and institute goals to increase awareness and make employees mindful of their daily water use. Then, ask employees for their suggestions on how to save water and reduce water costs. Doing so will give them a sense of pride and ownership in the program.

No matter how much progress is made to reduce water consumption, water challenges always will exist. With organizational growth and changes, revisit the water conservation plan to measure, assess and implement new strategies to further reduce water use. Every drop counts. 

About the author

Wesley Lobo is global business unit director – industry and agriculture for Xylem. Lobo can be reached at [email protected].