DROUGHT REDINESS – HOW TO CONSERVE AND CUT COSTS ON WATER CONSUMPTION
By Robert R. Puente
As Texas’s population continues to grow thanks to our robust, balanced, and diversified economy, so will demand for water. To meet demand it’s going to take diversifying water sources, piping water from greater distances and employing more expensive water production systems – such as desalination – to meet demand. Employing new technology and bringing on new water sources will – in many cases – drive costs up for customers. The cheapest source of water will come from conservation.
In San Antonio, like the rest of the Texas metros, commercial customers account for ten percent of the customers and 40 percent of water sales. Clean, fresh water is a precious and highly regulated resource; by creating partnerships, companies are reducing fresh water consumption through innovative conservation ideas.
For many of our partners, which include H-E-B, Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, Johnson Control Power Solutions, Frito-Lay, Toyota, Sea World, and Coca-Cola, these efforts have resulted in reduced production costs and savings on sewer treatment fees, as well as the opportunity to ensure residents can continue to enjoy clean, fresh water, despite record-breaking temperatures and drought. Businesses throughout the state should work in partnership with their local water utilities to conserve water not just to save money on consumption and sewer fees, but also to preserve current resources so the overall price of water will remain affordable for all customers.
To save money, check to see if your water utility offers customer rebates on large-scale retrofits, including replacing water-cooling systems with air cooling systems, upgrading industrial laundry equipment, capturing air conditioning condensate for reuse, and other upgrades and processes that significantly reduce water use. Often, high-water use residential and commercial toilets – those installed before 1992 – can be replaced at no cost to the customer. Recycled water is usually available at a reduced cost to commercial customers who can use as much recycled water as they need for production, without being held to drought restrictions. Every drop we conserve is a drop that we don’t have to pump from our precious freshwater sources.
Aside from replacing toilets and being mindful of water consumption, here is a sampling of how commercial customers have been able to conserve water, reduce wastewater treatment fees, and improve the bottom line:
The H-E-B Snack Plant, which produces tortilla chips, corn chips, and potato chips for over 300 stores, is saving water and energy by implementing a new water pretreatment system that adjusts pH levels for water used during production. The wastewater pretreatment system also removes solid byproducts, which are then used for compost and animal feed. With the new water pretreatment system, the H-E-B Snack Plant is complying with water quality regulations, as well as saving water and energy.
Johnson Controls Power Solutions manufactures 452,000 automotive batteries each month. It is a water-intensive process. To reduce water use per battery by half, the company treats wastewater for reuse, saving an estimated 1.5 million gallons of water per year.
The Holiday Inn Airport retrofitted 400 rooms with high-efficiency fixtures, saving seven million gallons of water a year. They also capture condensate from their air conditioning for watering a rooftop herb garden.
Water Saving Tips
Here are some simple measures businesses can take to ensure saving water and money:
1. Eliminate any unnecessary processes that waste water and ask a plumber to evaluate and plug up leaks in valves and pipes. Eliminating sources of leaks and other wasteful uses of water can really add up to large savings. A continuous five gallon per minute leak wastes 216,000 gallons per month.
2. Install low flush toilets. Old toilets can use from 3.5 to seven gallons per flush. New low-volume flush toilets use only 1.6 gallons per flush, which gets the job done just as well, but with less water.
3. Educate employees about the value of water. People still tend to think of water as a “free” commodity. Help employees appreciate the value of water and the cost that water has on overall operating expenses.
4. Consider recycling water with some processes instead of using fresh water. There might be some processes in the manufacturing cycle when using treated, recycled water can serve better than using premium fresh water. Treating and recycling water instead of disposing it as wastewater, or buying recycled water from the local water utility can help realize cost savings over time.
San Antonio is using the same amount of water it used twenty-five years ago, despite a 67 percent growth in population. Since water is a flowing resource, when consumers in one part of the state significantly reduce water consumption and increase water supply through conservation, everybody wins.
Robert R. Puente, J.D. was appointed San Antonio Water System’s president and CEO in November 2008. Puente served in the Texas House of Representatives, and was first elected in 1991; he was immediately appointed to the House Natural Resources Committee, which develops water policy for the state. Puente became chairman in 2003.
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