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Water conservation is a critical part of any environmentally responsive hotel, with every effort taken to reduce total water utilization in each of the three primary water-using areas: the hotel proper, which includes the guestrooms and public and "back-of-the-house" areas; the food-service facilities; and the laundry installation. To that end, low-flow fixtures and fittings are used throughout the building.

Internal water-conservation programs, through which guests can elect not to have bed linen and bath towels changed every day, are standard in environmentally responsive hotels. In addition to conserving water, these programs reduce the use of cleaning chemicals, as well as the fuel needed to produce hot water for laundering. Because these programs are voluntary, participation varies significantly by property, depending on the hotel's type, its location, and, most importantly, the effectiveness of its efforts to convey the importance of conservation and the manner of participation. On the low end, 5-percent participation has been reported at some properties, with participation in more successful programs exceeding 40 percent.

Domestic Hot Water

Domestic hot water (DHW) - for showers, sinks, dishwashers and clothes washers - is supplied either by boilers within your HVAC system or by separate water heaters. Consider the following measures:

  • Pick the right system for your facility. A unit that is too small may leave you and your guests without hot water, and too large a unit will consume more energy than necessary. In some facilities, water must be heated to high temperatures for laundry (71C or 160F) and then cooled to temperatures appropriate for guest-room faucets (49C or 120F). When purchasing new equipment, consider smaller, separate units for these functions. You may also be able to eventually switch to a smaller system if you follow other water-saving actions listed in the Energy Tips section.

  • Water heater timers ensure the heaters operate only during the opening hours. Insulating jackets for water heaters are also an inexpensive investment with short paybacks.

  • Low-flow aerators or showerheads often cut water flow in half. As a result, hot-water demand is similarly reduced, and payback is less than one year.

  • Low-flow and/or low-temperature commercial dishwashers save 35 to 60 percent on water and water-heating energy. Front-loading washing machines use about 40 percent less water - and less water-heating energy - and deliver incremental paybacks in approximately five years, compared with purchasing less-efficient replacement washers.

  • Ozone laundry uses electrically generated ozone gas to clean the laundry. This method reduces water and energy use by at least 30 percent, disinfects thoroughly, extends fabric life, reduces chemical use and contributes to a more comfortable work environment for laundry staff.

Cold Water

Domestic cold water is also an important consideration in the hospitality industry, since energy is often required to pump water for toilets/urinals, fountains, faucets, landscaping, water-cooled air conditioners, cooling towers and humidification. Many drinking-water purification processes also consume energy.

  • Low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, urinal sensors and other water management measures can reduce cold-water usage by over 20 percent. Talk to a water management consultant or your water utility for more information.

Plumbing Systems

The use of grey water is another significant water saver. For hotels, depending on the details of the grey-water installation, total fresh-water consumption can be cut almost in half, with associated reductions in both water and sewer charges. Grey water uses either mechanical-treatment units or, if the building is in an appropriate location, natural-treatment facilities, such as "constructed wetlands" or "living-machine" technology. The earliest successful hotel grey-water systems have been in continuous operation for almost 35 years, and their value has been proven economically and practically. In addition to its use for the flushing of water closets and urinals, grey water also is widely utilized for irrigation and washdown. Another primary use of grey water is cooling-tower makeup. Grey water is directly usable in cooling towers, provided that attention is paid to the proper use and rotation of biocides to control algal slime and growths.

Irrigating Systems

Where a hotel requires extensive irrigation, water conservation also can be achieved by collecting and storing roof storm water.

Water Quality

Water quality is another environmental consideration. Recent history has indicated that the overall quality and safety of the nation's water supplies is increasingly being compromised and cannot be assured. That means that designs must both provide levels of treatment beyond the minimal levels currently embraced and fully assess potential threats. Water quality also has an impact on the proper operation of water-conserving fittings such as shower heads, in which scaling from hard water can reduce flow.

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