By Gillan Taddune
With much of United States in the midst of a serious drought, watering is not only an expense, but an environmental issue as well. For many facilities, landscaping sets the tone for the experience people have on-site, but how can facilities, large and small, conserve water while keeping the landscape aesthetically appealing? And how can they reap the financial benefits of water conservation as water rates continue to rise? With smart water management, this is possible.
For water efficiency efforts, facility management leaders may want to focus on outdoor use first. Landscaping is typically the largest water use area and also has the most to gain from efficiency efforts. With minimal rain, facilities are prompted to implement innovative ways to conserve water, but it can be overwhelming when it comes to how to start the process without a water expert on staff. Fortunately, a variety of online resources are available that estimate how much water is required for a landscape given its location and characteristics. Comparing that to previous water bills will provide a starting point to identify areas for improvement. Physical inspections of irrigation systems are also a good way to see if water is being wasted. Monitoring and control technologies can achieve significant savings, but ensuring a properly functioning irrigation system is a necessary first step.
Irrigation controllers are now ubiquitous on facility properties, but technological advancements have significantly improved their ability to save water and manage complex sites. In addition, Internet-enabled hardware provide visibility into system performance. However, landscapes are heterogeneous and in flux as conditions change and systems malfunction. Maintaining a water efficient property means staying on top of system issues so that landscapes stay healthy and water isn’t wasted.
Measuring and analyzing water consumption in tandem with smart controls and system alerts allows users to continually maximize water and financial savings. These technologies can also be complemented by xeriscaping or on-site water reuse to gain even more conservation benefits.
Monitor The Flow
While irrigation management is a mature industry, indoor water management technologies are currently coming of age. Utility smart meters have become more popular but rarely provide detailed water use data to the end users. The recent proliferation of monitoring and communication technologies can deliver actionable data to operations managers in real time. Because of this, water data is much more valuable when consistently tracked over time to allow historical trends to emerge. Facility management departments can begin to manage water more effectively by tracking monthly consumption on water bills; a simple spreadsheet of monthly use can help identify trends and anomalies. Yet, with high-resolution data, analysis, and visualization tools, data begin to paint a much better picture of water use patterns which allows users to begin making informed improvements.
The collective public attention given to drought in parts of the United States over the past year is a great reminder that water sustainability should be at the heart of any facility operation. Fortunately, technology available today allows decision-makers to make significant progress while also saving on operations costs.
Taddune is the chief executive officer of Banyan Water, a provider of smart water management as a service for commercial and institutional businesses using real-time technologies and related services. Prior to Banyan, Taddune held leadership positions at sustainability focused organizations, including Green Mountain Energy, EnerNOC, and Recyclebank.