Implementing a Water Conservation Program at Your Hotel

By Russ Horner Co-founder, Water Management, Inc. | March 10, 2013

In the last 30 years, water and sewer rates have increased faster than even the cost of oil. The typical busy hotel manager and engineer has an overflowing plate and now they must add the management and reduction of water and waste water costs. In this article, we will look at:

  • The rising cost of water bills
  • Water use benchmarks for hotels
  • Getting started, and
  • An introduction to new national codes, standards and rating systems that will impact hotel operations.

Future articles will drill down into actual ways to reduce water use, techniques to calculate payback, and ways to make water efficiency work for them.

Rising Costs

Silently, almost out of notice, water and wastewater costs have been skyrocketing. As the following graph shows, water and wastewater rates nationally have risen even faster than oil over the last thirty years, and based on recent trends, this increase is not slowing down. Many hotel managers are finding that becoming more water efficient is a very effective way to improve their bottom line.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, between 2002 and 2007, municipal water rates increased an average of 27 percent in the United States, 32 percent in the United Kingdom, 45 percent in Australia, 50 percent in South Africa, and 58 percent in Canada. This is a worldwide trend.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.