Financial Data
Updated 26 Feb 2020

How to save water in your business

Have you considered the financial implications on your business if water restriction should be implemented? You might be unable to provide your core products or services, experience a decrease in supply chain productivity or lose out on some serious investors.

Catherine Bristow, 09 December 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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How to save water in your business

Saving -water

South Africa is in the throes of a water shortage and your business could soon experience its devastating impact.

Money managers, fund managers and individual investors are putting more weight on the potential for water shortages as a risk factor for investments. Water restrictions threaten your business growth by limiting your investment opportunities.

During a drought, businesses may not be able to provide their core products or services, companies with large supply chains run the risk of finding themselves in conflict with communities over access to water issues, and the increased cost of water may put strain on a company’s finances.

Related: How water scarcity could have big implications for your small business

It’s time to start responding to this risk. We show you how you can use South Africa’s water risks as an opportunity for shared responsibility and profitability, while saving water at work.

Water is a vital commodity

As our population and economy grows, so does our demand for water. With only 1% of water available for human consumption globally, treating our water supply with utmost respect should be an ongoing priority.

“Time and time again, South Africans are bombarded with messages about the scarcity of water, its availability and tips on how to save water; yet in spite of everything South Africa finds itself in the position of being short of this precious commodity”, says Bronwyn Barnard, editor of 3SMedia.

It is our hope that this article and its recommendations will assist in creating awareness amongst businesses concerning water restrictions and strategies to use water wisely.

Assess water usage in your business

Water -in -the -office

To conserve water in your business you first need to know how much water you require for daily operations and how much you are currently using. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” says Ronald M Brown, president, WISA.

  • First record your meter readings on a daily basis to establish your baseline use of water, from Monday to Friday for cleaning, flushing toilets, filling the kettles/urns etc.
  • Then compare these readings with days your business uses more water, for example when the plants or garden needs watering and/or you sponsor a company car wash etc.
  • After you have established “normal” water usage in your company, you need to obtain copies of your utility bill to determine your average monthly consumptions and compare the difference.
  • A huge discrepancy may be attributed to leakage; dripping taps, toilets, irrigating systems etc.

After this water audit you can start to identify and implement water efficiency options. Remember to track results and monitor consumption on an ongoing basis to ensure the level of savings is maintained.

Saving water at work

You and your employees need to take responsibility for the water you use. The business benefits of implementing water-efficiency measures in and around your office building can include reducing operating costs, as well as meeting sustainability goals. Likewise, water-efficient practices can assist with achieving green certifications and demonstrating leadership in environmental management.

Managing water pressure

Water consumption is also pressure-dependent. Certain categories of water consumption may be considered as pressure-independent (such as toilet tanks, washing machines and dishwashers) meaning that under high pressure these appliances consume water faster but the volumes of consumed water remain the same.

A reduction in water pressure can save water by reducing the likelihood of leaking water pipes, leaking water heaters, and dripping faucets.Business owners can reduce the water pressure at work by installing pressure-reducing valves.

Managing leaks and unaccounted losses

According to Phumla Williams, Deputy Director-General at GCIS, “a dripping tap or leaking toilet can on average waste up to 30 litres of water an hour”. 

This is easily correctable and can save your company plenty of money come your next water bill.

  • Keep your business or workplace leak-free by repairing dripping faucets, toilet flappers, and showerheads. In most cases, fixture replacement parts don’t require a major investment.
  • Have a plumber install push button (self-closing) taps, to ensure the taps are closed properly after use
  • Insulate your geysers and waterpipes to eliminate dripping.
  • Install a leak free toilet system to ensure the toilet does not fill until the flush button is depressed.

Because bathroom plumbing fixtures account for a significant portion of water use in office buildings, it is smart to assess the age and functionality of your existing features. Replace those that need replacing.

Related: Bringing water-wise innovations to the African continent

Faucet Aerator

This is the little thing that screws onto the part of your tap where the water comes out of. Adding an aerator onto bathroom and kitchen faucets saves water without decreasing flow. It doesn’t cost much and can be bought at any local hardware store.

Air conditioning

Replace water-cooled equipment with air-cooled equipment wherever feasible. If you must use evaporative air conditioners, set your thermostat to 24ºC.

South Africa’s waterless sanitation option

Being prompted by the need for a waterless sewage and urinal disposal systems, Mike Mayne, founder of Sannitree, invented the Free Flowing Water Free Urinal Valve (FreeFlo). “This new system can save 1.5 million litres of water every year in a single-rise building” says Mayne.

The final design features an air tight seal and deodorising dome, entirely eliminating the need for water while efficiently containing entrapped odours and gasses.

Educate your employees on water restrictions

Water -going -down -drain

Inspire water conservation at work by communicating the necessity and benefits to your employees. Discuss water efficiency at team meetings and encourage staff to contribute their water saving ideas. Creating a workplace culture that focuses on and takes pride in efficiency can be very beneficial for a water conservation plan.

  • Give recognition to those who initiate water-efficiency procedures and processes.
  • Provide informative articles concerning drought in South Africa and what staff can do to combat this.
  • Strictly enforce all rules and procedures regarding water saving.
  • Accountability. Ensure all employees are well versed in your water saving policy and hold one another accountable for using water sparingly and reporting any leakages.

Water restriction preparation checklist

This checklist has been written to help you manage your company’s water efficiency strategy and aid you in formulating a drought contingency plan.

Use it to help you make informed decisions regarding whether or not certain restrictions should be implemented, at what level of severity and when you can relax or should apply stricter restrictions.

  • Check with your municipality and become familiar with the current water restrictions, guidelines and compliance requirements in your area.
  • Describe the information that needs monitoring, e.g. daily water demand, leaks etc.
  • Establish a baseline for water use.
  • Check your contracts with the landlord or building owner to implement infrastructure renovations, if appropriate. Install water-efficient appliances and fittings.
  • Regularly maintain your water consumption resources (e.g. have you installed water-efficient nozzles on your taps and have you checked for leaks?).
  • Introduce water-efficient procedures for your business’s daily operations, and your employees.
  • Introduce education and awareness training for your staff, regarding the importance of water efficiency and its benefits to the business.
  • Identify alternative water sources, like collecting and reusing rain water.

Your drought plan must include:

  • Quantified and specific targets for water use reductions to be achieved during periods of water shortage.
  • Specific procedures to be followed for the initiation or termination of each drought response stage, including procedures for notifying your staff.
  • The plan should specify procedures for considering (approving and denying) variances to the plan.
  • Include provisions for the enforcement of any mandatory water use restrictions, including specific penalties for violation of these restrictions.

Involving your employees in the preparation of the drought contingency plan provides an important means of educating them on the need for the plan and their consent or adherence to it?

Related: Onus on manufacturing to save water

The Cost benefit of saving water

Water shortage has direct financial costs associated with it. This can be manifested through decreased income due to business operations, increased operational costs associated with water pricing, increased insurance premiums associated with risk or increased cost of capital due to lower investment confidence.

These financial implications of a water shortage will have a direct impact on the profitability of your business.

It’s important that your business implements the above water saving strategies and techniques. Another option might be to share the risk with other stakeholders with whom you share resources and supply chains.

To actively manage water risks, your business might need to work closely with other stakeholders, including your competitors that share the same water risks, because many dimensions of the risks are beyond the control of a single business entity.

This may also present you with opportunities to create shared value by increasing your long term profitability, while at the same time adding value to society.

By carefully managing your water use you can

  • Cut costs
  • Develop an eco-friendly image
  • Benefit from stakeholder partnerships
  • Attract environmentally friendly customers

More water saving tips for the work environment

Tap -water -leak

  • Replace old toilets and urinals with water sensory labelled models, or consider waterless urinals. Toilets manufactured before 1992 consume up to 26 litres per flush, compared to 6 litres per flush in the newer models.
  • Encourage employees to report leaks and problems with plumbing and irrigation equipment.
  • Do not run the dishwasher for small loads. A high-efficiency dishwasher upgrade that runs only when full can conserve an additional 3785 litres of water per month.

What can you do at home to save water?

Conserving water is not only good for the environment, but it can also help save you money on utility bills, spend less on home maintenance, and worry less about mould and mildew damage caused by leaking water.

  • Report leaking and burst pipes.
  • Fix leaking taps in your yards and homes. The longer you ignore that dripping faucet, the more money you are going to spend on your water bill. Even a small drip can waste upwards of 190 litres per day.
  • Upgrade your showerheads. Switch to low-flow showerheads and you can save up to 9 litres of water a minute.
  • Avoid watering gardens with hosepipes for long periods and in the middle of the day.
  • Use buckets to wash your car with, instead of hosepipes.
  • Install rain barrels under gutter spouts to catch excess runoff after a storm; use rainwater to wash your car or water your garden.
  • Report any illegal abstraction of water from rivers and other water sources for commercial or domestic use.

By taking early action to implement water saving techniques, you can prepare your business for long-term growth by investing in water efficiency where it matters most.

Related: Surviving the drought

Clearly the growth in demand for water, compared to the supply constraints in South Africa is leading to an unattainable situation. Water conservation must be applied. Remember, every drop counts.

What are you doing to save water?

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About the author

Catherine Bristow

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