The Sustainable Office – Part 6: Water

From pollution dilution to cleaning and hydration, water is pretty darn useful. And, at less than a third of a cent per gallon in the US, water is basically free. That’s got to be the best bang for your buck I have ever heard of. Inexpensive water does not come without some hidden costs, however, as the low price leads many people to overuse and abuse water as though there were an endless supply. Even though water is so cheap, there are still some money and water saving ideas out there. Here are a few that you can use around your office.

1. Install water-efficient fixtures/toilets

Toilets used to use up to 9 gallons per flush. Nowadays, toilets only use about 1.6 gallons per flush, and there are dual flush toilets that use less water for onesies than twosies. If the toilets in your office haven’t been updated in the last quarter century, this would probably be a good place to focus your attention.

Older fixtures also use much more water than their contemporary counterparts. Replacing them will save your office gallons of water each day.

2. Fix leaks

Leaks can account for up to 30% of your office’s water bill. Fixing one leaky tap can save your office as much as 90 liters per week. That’s 4580 liters per year, which is enough to cover an entire (American) football field in nearly half a foot of water.

3. Reduce irrigation water-use

Landscaping with indigenous plants means that little to no watering is needed because these plants are already adapted to the climate of the region. In addition to requiring less water, these plants generally require less attention and care than non-native species, and you create a nice little habitat for local birds and other species.

Using sprinklers to water your landscaped areas is the like spinning in circles with a shotgun and shooting wildly–odds are you will hit your intended target, but you also hit many unintended targets (like the sidewalk) and you use a lot more ammo than was actually needed. Instead of sprinklers consider using a drip line, which can deliver the correct amount of water to the correct location much better than sprinklers.

Watering at night reduces water lost to evaporation and gives the water more time to soak into the ground.

4. Establish a water management plan

A good way to reduce your office’s water consumption is to create a water management plan and make it known to all your employees. All you have to do is outline new techniques employees can use to reduce water use (for instance, turning the water off when washing dishes or hands).

To encourage your employees to adopt the new practices and reduce water use you can make a competition out of it. Read the water meter one month and set goals for the coming month, such as decreasing office consumption by 10%. If your office achieves the goal, celebrate by throwing a slip ‘n slide and sprinkler party. Or you could just get all your employees congratulatory mugs.

5. Use common sense

This is perhaps the most effective ways to reduce water consumption. Turn off faucets when you are not using them, like when you are brushing your teeth or doing the dishes. Take shorter showers and turn the shower off while lathering up (this is more for at home unless you work at Burger King). What it all boils down to is using water wisely and turning it off when it’s not in use.