Water Conservation and Operational Efficiency: Finding the Right Balance

Since the beginning of time, humans have struggled with finding the right equipment to successfully complete the task at hand. For example, “Hmm . . . is this club heavy enough to stop a charging mastodon?” Fast forward to the present, and we’re still grappling with that issue, although it thankfully no longer involves prehistoric creatures. Today, it’s likely to relate to identifying the best equipment and best practices for running your business effectively and profitably while maximizing energy and water efficiency.

Nowhere is this need for balance more compelling than in the kitchen operations of restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, and health-care facilities. Water use in these establishments accounts for 15% of total water consumption in the commercial and institutional sectors. Although reducing water use alone may sound easy, doing so in a way that maintains code-mandated health and safety standards, improves profitability, and makes the most efficient use of your employees’ time can be far more challenging. Let’s look at a few examples of balancing water conservation and operational efficiency.

  • Time is money: Although faucet aerators can save water by reducing flow rates, make sure you install the type of aerator that best fits the function of the sink. For example, a more efficient aerator is ideal for sinks used primarily for flow-based tasks like washing hands or rinsing vegetables. But putting those aerators on sinks used for volume-based tasks like filling huge pots or buckets means that employees are standing around—and getting paid for it—while waiting for those vessels to be filled. Ecology Action can help you choose the aerators that are sensitive to the task at hand. 
  • Feelin’ hot, hot, hot: The S. Food & Drug Administration requires water for handwashing to be 110° F, although state and local health codes may vary. Faucets equipped with low-flow aerators might not deliver water at the required temperature quickly enough, because the cold water in the system must be purged before the hot water can come through. Ecology Action can test your sinks to see how fast they come up to temperature and can recommend piping-design and insulation upgrades that will remedy this issue. 
  • Invest in technology: Replacing water-consuming kitchen equipment with new state-of-the-art models can improve your operational efficiency while reducing both water and energy use. For example, an Energy Star certified commercial dishwasher uses half the water of standard models, and an Energy Star certified commercial ice maker is 20% more water efficient than standard models. Ecology Action can recommend the most cost-effective solutions.
  • Make it a team effort: No amount of investment in new equipment is going to be completely effective if your employees aren’t buying into it. The EPA’s WaterSense at Work program recommends a comprehensive education and training plan that focuses not only on proper operating procedures but also on building a team-oriented approach to water efficiency. This sense of teamwork can extend to customers as well. Ecology Action can help design a plan that’s tailored to your business, your equipment, and your employees.

Like so many aspects of your business, striking a balance between two seemingly competing interests can be a challenge. That’s why having Ecology Action in your corner can help you make the right choices.