Leanne Spence | Winning the Water War (Part 2) - Efficiency the key to victory
Why have we not focused more on water efficiency as a water-demand management solution to Jamaica’s water problems brought on by drought and high demand?
Are our businesses, homes and institutions missing out on the social and economic benefits of water efficiency?
Imagine an existing business trying to cut down on the cost of utilities, in this case their water bill. Management posts memos in office bathrooms and kitchens encouraging employees and other users to turn off taps, report leaks, and turn off urinals when not in use. Imagine a family doing the same and encouraging its members not to leave the tap running when brushing teeth and to limit shower times.
This water-conservation approach is smart but often proves less effective than expected, and this is reflected in the next month’s bill or it is seen in critical instances of restricted supply because of drought. A better approach to take, which requires no behaviour change, is for all users to focus on water efficiency.
Water efficiency is the use of fixtures or technologies that restrict water wastage by regulating output, in other words, doing more with less. Water efficiency can be achieved by businesses and households when they opt to install water efficient fixtures in their corporate and private bathrooms, kitchens and elsewhere.
The use of fixtures such as water efficient shower heads, water-efficient toilets, faucets, and kitchen aerators have been proven to deliberately reduce the amount of water required from our tanks and reservoirs increasing our resilience to climate change and drought.
In this way, we manage the demand for water, resulting in more of the precious commodity being available for use at a later time.
What does water efficiency mean for your business?
Cost is everything when running a business, successful business operations tend to be the ones able to efficiently deliver products and services at minimal operational cost. For businesses with high water bills, reducing water usage is key to cutting (or controlling) cost, providing measurable savings that are attainable with water-efficiency technologies.
Businesses in Jamaica generally install conventional toilets which use 1.6- 4.5 gallons per flush (GPF). Replacing these with high-efficiency toilets reduces gallons per flush (GPF) to the 0.8- 1.28 GPF range, a 50 per cent reduction!
Even more promising are faucet aerators. Traditional aerators have a gallon per minute (GPM) usage rate of 2.2-3.5 GPM, while the water-efficient devices have a rate of 0.5-1.5 GPM because of an instant-shut off feature when not in use or reducing the flow with pressure compensated technology. This gives businesses a whopping 65 per cent savings on their water usage. High-efficiency kitchen aerators and shower heads each give savings of 40 per cent.
Can you imagine the massive difference it will make to the business economy in Jamaica if more businesses employed water-efficient solutions?
What does water efficiency mean for your household?
Lower water bill, better water security, and more money in the pocket when added up monthly and yearly to invest in other things.
What does water efficiency mean for Jamaica?
Water efficiency will mean support of energy efficiency, creating financial savings for businesses, households, and institutions and, ultimately, climate resilience.
By using high-efficiency water fixtures, the water used in the average conventional restroom or bathroom can be reduced by 40-50 per cent. In the typical household, 60-70 per cent of the water used is in the bathroom; for office buildings and institutions, the percentage used in the restroom is more than 80-90 per cent.
Now if 70 per cent of our water is used in the restroom and we can save 40 per cent of that amount, we can save 28 per cent of the water we use, which is saving 28 per cent of our water bill. Water and energy are related. By us using less water, less energy would be needed to pump the commodity from location to location. Also, less energy would be used to treat the water and less sewerage would be created – a win-win for all.
The way forward
Government policy is very important to ensure success. High-efficiency water-saving fixtures are more expensive than conventional fixtures and there is weak water-policy support to distinguish the high-efficiency products from conventional inefficient fixtures.
The current duty concessions on water-using equipment, namely, water-saving shower heads and “flow restrictors for water faucets” is inadequate. What is needed is a system like the Environmental Protection Agency in America, and other entities in Europe, where concessions are only given to water using products achieving a savings of 20 per cent or more above conventional products, enabling a shift in water system investments.
Water efficiency is well within our reach as a low-hanging fruit. Let us not make the mistake of underestimating its potential in greatly contributing to our water security.
Notwithstanding recently announced plans to increase the amount of water available in the future, we need to boost our water-efficiency agenda now, or we will remain in this cycle of yearly water shortages affecting productivity and negatively impacting our economy.
Let us act now.