Saving water

Stopping drips is a simple way to reduce water waste (Photo: Doladimeji via Wikimedia Commons)

Saving water is part of the wider picture of sustainable facilities management; it's good for the environment and can also save your charity money by reducing your bills for water use and sewage services.  Facilities managers are generally responsible for managing the consumption and disposal of water.  This page sets out some key steps facilities managers can take to reduce water usage.

First steps

Audit

The first step is to audit where water is used your charity.

Measure how much water your organisation is using.  Check your water meters and bills and find out how much water use and disposal is costing you. Also review the indirect costs related to water use:  the costs of water heating, plumbing and drainage repairs and maintenance, as well as consumables such as laundry products.

Understanding the complete picture of your charity's  water use will help to establish base-line information, identify ways of saving water and set targets.

Plan

Develop a plan for reducing the amount of water your charity uses. This should be a simple, step-by-step guide outlining your specific goals and strategies.

Communicate

Communicate your plan and seek to get buy-in at senior level. Emphasise the benefits:

  • saving money
  • reducing your charity’s carbon footprint
  • contributing to corporate responsibility goals
  • saving energy - using less hot water means you will be paying lower heating bills

Taking action

Options for reducing your water use

  • reduce the flow of water
  • modify existing items so that they use less water
  • replace existing items with water-saving equipment 
  • re-use grey water
  • educate staff about using less water

Locate and Fix Leaks

Prevent unnecessary water loss at your properties by finding and repairing all leaks and developing a preventive maintenance program. Part of this program should be to make a checklist of all potential sources of leaks – and instigate regular inspections of equipment.

Toilets and shower rooms

  • install water-saving fixtures in toilets and showering areas. These may include:
  • water-efficient toilets and urinals
  • tap aerators to reduce the flow of water from taps and shower head

Kitchens

  • install tap aerators
  • use dishwaters which are designed to use less water
  • if your charity has laundry facilities, consider installing washing machines which use less water.

Outside

Do not hose down paths and driveways as a matter of habit. Use a broom to sweep them.

Landscaping choices: use plants which are tough enough to survive without irrigation. Turf over those areas which will be used for recreational activities. 

Harvest rainwater: use water butts to collect rainwater and use it for watering.

If you use a sprinkler system, ensure that the sprinklers are not spraying paved surfaces. Don’t use hoses and sprinters when it is windy.

Inspect sprinkler systems regularly to ensure that they are functioning as intended.

If you have a grounds maintenance contract discuss your water saving policy with them and ensure that contractors follow your policies.

Advanced steps

If you are undertaking refurbishment or new developments, consider installing grey water systems. Grey water is tap water that has been used: in washing machines, tubs, showers, and bathroom sinks. It is not potable - safe to drink - but it is also not toxic and generally disease-free. Grey water reclamation is the process that reuses this water instead of simply piping it into a sewage system.

Rainwater harvesting systems  can be a viable option for charities where a building has a large roof area and the organisation also has  a high demand for nonpotable water.

Involve your staff and service users

  • Educating your staff and users to be aware of sustainability issues is a key step. 
  • publicise your water conservation goals
  • build awareness of water waste
  • encourage people to ensure faucets are turned off and to report leaking taps
  • give recognition to those who get involved 

Useful links:

Your water company may also be able to offer advice. Not sure which company supplies your water: The WaterUK website has a map that shows suppliers around the country.

The charity Waterwise has a website with advice on water saving.