Amid California's Drought, Hoteliers Supply a Stream of Innovative, Water-Saving Solutions
By Ranee Ruble-Dotts Founder & Creative Director, Paper Moon Creative | May 08, 2016
California's unprecedented drought led to government mandates in 2015 requiring water agencies to cut residential and business water usage by 25 percent. For hotels, the mandates also include specific rules about irrigation, serving water only upon request, and encouraging reuse of guests' towels and linens. While the mandates represent a starting point for water conservation, many California hotels are already ahead of the game: finding ways to reduce water consumption without compromising the guests' experience. They have produced a steady stream of water-saving ideas for hotel bathrooms, laundry, landscaping, and kitchens--all of which are transferable to hotels almost anywhere.
Set against a backdrop of parched mountains in Palm Desert, California, the sprawling, 450-acre JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa is a palm-fringed oasis. The resort boasts 884 guest rooms, five pools, several lakes, two golf courses, grass tennis courts, and a multitude of restaurants and bars. Yet for all of the millions of gallons of water the resort gulps down each year, it's become an unexpected beacon for conservation.
In 2015, the resort saved nearly five million gallons of water over the previous year through a myriad of water-wise solutions ranging from landscaping changes to low-flow showerheads. While the savings were significant, the resort's water bills still rose by $50,000 due to increases in local water rates. General Manager for the resort, Ralph Scatena, was pragmatic. "Had we not made the changes we made, we would be paying a lot more," said Scatena.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hotels and other lodging accommodations account for approximately 15 percent of the total commercial water usage in the United States. Over the last decade, the cost of water and wastewater services across the country has been climbing due in part to the expense of replacing aging water systems. Growth in population and infrastructure is also increasing the demand for freshwater resources. In California, the extended drought and water scarcity in some regions have compounded the problem. But California is not alone in feeling the pressure. A government report issued last year found that water managers in 40 of 50 states expect to experience water shortages in portions of their states within the next 10 years.
Now entering its fifth year, California's unprecedented drought led to government mandates in 2015 requiring water agencies to cut residential and business water usage by 25 percent. For hotels, the mandates also include specific rules about irrigation, not serving water to guests unless requested, and providing guests with the option to forego having linens and towels laundered daily.
While the mandates represent a starting point for water conservation, many California hotels are already ahead of the game. "We were exceeding expectations even before the mandates," said Robert Lipinski, Director of Engineering for Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.