The value of an apartment water audit

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What is an apartment water audit and how is it done?

Conducting a water audit on an apartment complex or commercial facility can produce significant results, no matter how big or small the building.

Take, for example, a water utility company in Denver. After noticing some of its residential customers were using more than the average amount of water for families in similar sized homes, the utility worked with a plumbing group to target 120 customers. A basic water audit of their homes was conducted, revealing that virtually all had traditional toilets, faucets and showerheads.

With the help of the plumbing group and the utility company, residents replaced all of their toilets with high efficiency models. Water-saving showerheads were also installed, along with inexpensive aerators that reduce water flow in all faucets. The plumbing retrofits showed a 50 per cent reduction in water use and related costs.

While a water audit of a larger facility or building is be more involved, there are ways to simplify the process so that even managers working with cleaning professionals or building engineers can handle it themselves.

A comprehensive water audit will typically track plumbing systems throughout the building, checking leaks and HVAC systems. This type of audit typically does require an expert. The simplified version discussed here can be performed in-house, the specific purpose being to understand how water is used by people throughout the building.

First, establish a benchmark — how much water is a building currently using? Managers should gather two or three years’ worth of water utility bills that show how much water the facility has been using along with the costs, which both need to be tracked. They should then be averaged to determine the benchmark.

After determining the benchmark, it is time to observe where and how water is being used, and with that information, look into technologies that can help use water more efficiently and reduce consumption.

Managers should conduct a walk-through of all bathrooms, as toilets are probably using 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Managers should check to see if aerators have been installed in faucets.

They should also to determine the age of appliances, such as dishwashers. If they are more than five years old, a newer system will likely use less water.

Once managers have gathered your observations, they should generate a report that clearly shows the current amount of water being used on an annual basis, what it costs, and, most importantly, suggestions of where it can be saved.

Similar to the Denver homeowners mentioned earlier, the quickest ways to make immediate reductions in water consumption are by installing inexpensive high-efficiency toilets and aerators.

If changing water-using fixtures and appliances are recommended as a result of the audit, the final step is to determine what the overall savings will amount to and present this to upper management. A spreadsheet can be created that will clearly and often persuasively show the benefits of implementing the changes and the savings in both water use and costs that result. This should sell them on the value of the audit and its findings.

Klaus Reichardt is founder and managing partner of Waterless No-Flush Urinals in Vista, Calif. Reichardt founded the company in 1991 with the goal to establish a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water conservation in mind. He can be reached at klaus@waterless.com.

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