Commercial and institutional facilities account for up to 17 percent of total municipal water demand in the U.S. and 18 percent of energy used. The hospitality sector, including restaurants, accounts for approximately 15 percent of all the water used by U.S. commercial and institutional facilities. With the growing green movement affecting the travel industry and restaurants alike, saving water isn’t just a passing fad, but a wise business decision that can also improve your bottom line.
To help restaurants and other commercial entities better manage their water use, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program created WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities, which offers restaurant owners and managers ideas to save water, energy, and money. Many water utilities also offer incentives and conservation programs to help foodservice establishments and hotels reduce water use. Here are 10 places to start.
Clean up with energy and water savings
From machine loading procedures to new appliances, restaurants are realizing significant water and energy savings by changing the way they wash dishes:
• In addition to saving water, water-efficient pre-rinse spray valves require less energy to heat the rinsing water. WaterSense is planning to release a final specification this fall for models that are independently certified for efficiency and performance to earn the WaterSense label.
• Energy Star-qualified commercial dishwashers use 40 percent less energy and water on average compared to conventional models. They can save a business an average of $3,000 per year on its energy and water bills, depending on the product type.
• Educating dishwashing staff on proper preparation and machine loading techniques—including washing only full loads—can save both water and energy.
• Conventional food disposal systems can use up to 15 gallons of water per minute (gpm) when idle; retrofitting the disposal system with a load sensor can reduce water use to just 1.0 gpm when the disposal is not in use.
Now you’re cooking (with less water)
Savings aren’t just for the spigot—there are numerous water-efficient retrofit and replacement options for kitchen appliances and equipment used to prepare and serve food:
• Maximizing the efficiency of equipment that relies on a central boiler—such as combination ovens, steam kettles and steam cookers—can help restaurants use significantly less water and energy.
• Energy Star-qualified commercial ice machines are on average 15 percent more energy-efficient and 23 percent more water-efficient than standard models.
• Some equipment—e.g., wok stoves used for stir frying or dipper wells used for rinsing ice cream scoops—discharge water continuously, but many foodservice establishments turn them off when not in use.
Employees should wash their hands—efficiently
Even in areas where food is not prepared, restaurants and hotels can save water. Restrooms, for example, account for about 30 percent of water used in foodservice establishments. Here are a few more water-saving tips:
• When remodeling restrooms, consider installing WaterSense-labeled tank-type toilets, bathroom faucets and flushing urinals, which are independently certified to be at least 20 percent more water-efficient and perform as well or better than standard models.
• Leaky plumbing can account for thousands of gallons of water wasted each year. Checking for leaks on a regular basis keeps your fixtures from sending water and money down the drain. Restaurants that use automatic sensors on faucets, toilets and urinals should also check them frequently to ensure they are operating properly and avoid excess water flow.
• Landscaping doesn’t have to be a drain on resources; stick with native, drought-tolerant plants and consider a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller for automatic watering systems.
To learn more about WaterSense and how restaurants are maximizing water savings, visit the WaterSense website and download the Saving Water in Restaurants fact sheet or access relevant sections of WaterSense at Work.