U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- As urban and suburban populations grow, they are taxing our aging water and sewage systems. Many communities have considered infrastructure renewal programs that would replace existing water systems with new and more efficient technologies, but upgrades are expensive and the federal government has been steadily decreasing funding for such projects.
Because of infrastructure limitations, water shortages, and a continually increasing population, the effects of rising water costs are being felt more and more. Businesses and institutions realize higher operating expenses due to increased water and sewer rates. These increased expenses often must be passed on to consumers or taxpayers.
Communities are hard-pressed to find acceptable, economic solutions. As community water resources are being squeezed and the government is imposing stricter environmental regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) financial support for water improvement projects has been steadily declining. In fact, EPA funding for projects such as building wastewater treatment facilities declined from $5.5 billion in 1982 to under $2 billion in 1994. Yet, the estimated minimum investment to renew water and wastewater systems nationwide is $137 billion. Thus, consumers and taxpayers are left to pay for the new systems.
True water conservation management is a broad problem for communities seeking to balance development with protection of its natural resources. It is also a business problem for commercial, industrial, and institutional concerns, for which water and sewage costs have bloated operating budgets.
One emerging solution for businesses is water conservation management, which seeks to use water only where it is needed and only in the amount necessary. Water conservation management is a relatively new science that incorporates demographic studies, professional audits of sources and uses of water, custom-engineered water-saving solutions, installation of water-saving systems, and verification of water cost savings.
Many of us are barely conscious of our own or other people's water use habits. We flush toilets, wash hands, take showers, irrigate lawns, and wash dishes. And we are certainly not conscious of water use at our factories, businesses, hospitals, or schools.
The water use of each public facility or commercial concern depends on several factors, including the number and gender of people within the facility; facility amenities, such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, and air-conditioning systems; and the demand people place on the facility and its ancillary systems. For example, buildings with cafeterias that include dishwashers and tray washers will use more water than, say, offices with no such amenity. Large city teaching hospitals with elaborate laboratory and research equipment will consume more gallons of water per day than community hospitals. And, colleges with well-developed athletic programs, where students take frequent showers, will have heavier water demands than a music conservatory.
Studying these factors contributes to an accurate picture of a facility's water usage. Today, sophisticated software can help refine a demographic study. A water conservation management company, H2O Matrix, has developed the HydroLogicx software, which presents a detailed accounting of water usage based on demographic science and accumulated experience in water conservation management.
Water conservation management requires an in-depth understanding of all sources of water and the efficiency of all equipment used in water consumption. Is a company's cooling tower operating at optimal efficiency? Does a facility have refrigerators, compressors, or vacuum pumps still being cooled by water? Does a hospital's cafeteria have a tray washer that is using continuously running water? How many gallons of water does a facility's toilets use? It is critical that all sources and uses be examined and studied to determine if there are ways to save water, while maintaining water performance, according to H2O Matrix.
H2O Matrix measures all equipment and components through sophisticated metering devises. This information, coupled with good demographic data, pinpoints an organization's water usage. H2O Matrix also examines the water supply, water pressure, distribution, and wastewater disposal systems to identify areas of improvement. This gives customers a thorough understanding of their water consumption and areas to be improved.
The best solutions are ones that are custom-engineered to meet an organizations' objectives for lowering its water and sewer expenses, while providing superior water performance to users. Water conservation management plans identify the equipment and fixtures that need to be replaced, improved, or retrofitted to result in lower energy and maintenance costs. The plan will also specify what level of water savings can be achieved.
Often, solutions include technology that regulates the amount of water used. For example, H2O Matrix has a sophisticated cafeteria food tray washing station controller, which reduces water use by 50 percent; a flow regulation system for institutional dishwashers that lowers hot water use by 25 percent to 35 percent; a recirculation system that reduces water use in water-cooled pumps by up to 70 percent; and a water reuse module that recycles water from one system to another. Other solutions may call for flow-control devices that regulate the amount of water used in toilets, faucets, and showers.
Companies that opt for a water conservation management system may realize savings of between 20 percent and 40 percent, according to H2O Matirx. Savings can be tracked by verifying demographics, usage patterns of facility equipment, water bills, and by periodic metering of retrofitted equipment.
Water savings by commercial and institutional concerns not only lowers operating expenses by thousands of dollars each year, but also reduces the demand on the area's water supply. For example, in the Boston area, a teaching hospital saved nearly 29 million gallons per year, and a large university saved 70 million gallons of water annually with a water conservation management program.
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