According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, water audits are often performed for free. Some utilities will conduct complimentary water audits for customers. But facilities professionals can also conduct water audits by using the American Water Works Association’s free water audit software or South Florida Water Management District’s new Water Efficiency and Self-Conducted Water Audits at Commercial and Institutional Facilities guide, which is applicable in all 50 states.
A water audit reviews domestic (bathrooms and kitchens), sanitary (water discharged from restrooms, showers, food preparation facilities, etc.), landscaping (irrigation, pools, fountains, etc.), and process water use (cooling towers, chillers, boilers, etc.). A water audit also identifies ways to increase the efficiency of a facility’s water use. In addition, it can identify:
- Efficiency of individual water-using hardware, fixtures, equipment, landscaping, and management practices
- Leakage or water loss
- Areas of excessive water consumption
- Degradation of previously efficient fixtures and devices
- Benchmarks for measuring water-efficiency program success
- Impact of staff training and awareness programs
- Practical, cost-effective measures for water savings and reduced consumption based on findings
- Annual financial savings, payback periods, and ROI for the water-saving initiatives suggested
Most water audits typically start by measuring water flow when no fixtures are in use (this helps check for leaks). Then facilities managers can break down water flow by area, faucet, or flush valve to compare current use to the flow rates of new fixtures. To help collect the necessary numbers, some experts suggest investing in submeters. They can be useful when it comes to detecting leaks and high usage rates.
Campbell Union School District in San Jose, CA, conducted a water audit and discovered that 85% of its water use went to irrigation. To fix this, the district replaced outdated controllers and financed the project with water agency rebates. This reduced water use by 38%, saving 39 million gallons of water. It translated to a $111,000 return in the first year, providing 100% ROI in 12 months.
For the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, a water audit pointed to waterless urinals as a way to save 7 million gallons of water per year. After installing 178 waterless urinals, the STAPLES Center now saves more than $28,000 each year in direct water costs.
Have you conducted a water audit in your commercial building? What’s holding you back?