Water Conservation: New and Proven Ways to Save Money and Resources

By Gary Cardono Director of Hospitality Sales, Globe Union Group, Inc. | October 16, 2011

Water conservation is an important practice to adopt in today's uneasy economy as it is a cost control and a way to enhance efficiency for a hotel property. In an industry that thrives on recreating the home experience away from home, hotels have much to gain by employing water conservation practices. Guests enjoy unwinding from a long business day in a warm shower and relaxing by a pool surrounded by beautiful landscapes. But these amenities can result in significant water costs for a hotel. Fortunately in today's energy efficient world, there are effective ways to decrease water consumption that will result in significant cost savings.

First, it is important to find out where your hotel(s) stands right now. Look at your current average water consumption by averaging the last three to four months of water bills, and compare it to other similar properties in the area. Usage varies depending on size of hotel and location, but most studies indicate hotels use between about 100 to 200 gallons of fresh water per occupied guestroom per day. This averages out to about 36,500 to 73,000 gallons of water per room per year. Higher than average water consumption may indicate a problem with your plumbing. Routine inspections should be conducted of all the plumbing in your hotel to ensure that leaks, faulty valves, and out dated equipment are not costing you unnecessary water loss. If a pipe springs a leak, the situation can get out of control rather quickly resulting in large repair bills. A leak such as a slow constant drip from a bathroom faucet can lose more than 40 gallons per day of water. This is an unbelievable waste of a valuable resource and think of the cost. Most hotel properties have leaks on a small scale so it is a good idea to check monthly or at least every other month for leaks. Adopt a detailed accounting procedure so the hotel operator can make informed judgments about the ways to better manage the costs of water usage.

Next you should examine your hotel's practices when it comes to water use. Laundry and cleaning can consume a great deal of water, so make sure you are getting the most out of each drop. Many hotels ask their guests to reuse their bathroom towels and bed linens during their stay and have seen a positive response to such programs. This is a simple way to save a lot of energy and water. Hotels should examine their cleaning practices and ensure that unnecessary water is not being wasted. Housekeeping staff should be attentive to their water usage. Some properties even offer financial incentives for staff members that adopt water reduction goals. Hotel restaurants should also be carefully evaluated. Water use in food preparation and cleaning can be excessive so it is important to educate staff on best practices when it comes to water conservation in the kitchen. Installing low-flow fixtures or those with automatic shut offs have already resulted in significant water savings for many dining centers.

One of the largest water consumption points in a hotel is in the guest bathrooms. Toilets, showers and sinks account for a large portion of the water bill. At one point in time, low-flow plumbing fixtures used to mean decreased water pressure and unhappy guests, which was a nightmare for hotel owners. But with the advancement of technology - which has come a long way since then - and the introduction of today's low-flow plumbing fixtures, products now deliver exceptional performance while still saving water. The EPA developed the WaterSense program to make it easier to find these water saving products. All the products carrying the Water Sense label must meet several requirements including at least twenty percent less water usage than the average product in the category and performance that is equal to or exceeds the average product in the category.

The EPA has certified many lines of shower heads, faucets, toilets, and urinals that all meet these requirements for water reduction. Water Sense labeled faucets reduce water use by at least thirty percent and shower heads use at least twenty percent less water. Toilet flushing constitutes thirty to forty percent of domestic water consumption, and for the hospitality industry, this translates to an even greater potential for cost savings and water reduction. Toilets certified by the EPA use twenty percent less water per flush. Some of the new urinals use half as much water as their predecessors.

In a single family home, the EPA has estimated that Water Sense products can save the average family of four 6,800 gallons of water a year. Imagine how much water an entire hotel can save.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.