Water Conservation – Steps Property Managers and Property Owners Can Take To Make Sure Water Isn’t Wasted
By Bill Haws, General Manager, Bill Howe Family of Companies
September 24, 2010
According to California Department of Water Resources, a detailed water audit and leak detection program found an average of 10 percent of water used is lost through leaks and wasted water. Are your tenants reporting water leaks?
You may be surprised to find out how many of your tenants do not report water leaks, whether it is an exposed leak from their faucet or it is a toilet that continues to run. If your tenants are not paying the water bill, or if your building does not have submeters and the water usage is determined by an allocation method, your tenants likely do not have vested interest in the amount of water they are actually using.
As the property owner or property manager, it pays to be proactive when it comes to saving water. A highly efficient way to make sure that water is not wasted at your property is to do a routine periodic inspection of all the plumbing within your building(s). Most of the inspection is visual and can be done by you. By checking for leaking faucets, running toilets and exposed leaking water pipes, you can catch about 85 percent of possible leaks within your property. You can also drop a dye tablet in the tank of a toilet to see if the dye leaks into the toilet bowl, catching a common non-visual leak. If you would like a professional technician to periodically inspect your property, a plumber should be able to completely inspect an eight-unit building in about an hour or less.
Several steps can be taken by you and from your tenants to make sure your building’s water waste is as little as possible. One of the most important steps includes installing water saving plumbing fixtures:
- Showerheads: Today you can purchase and install showerheads that deliver less gallons per minute (GPM) without sacrificing water pressure. The current standard for low-flow showerheads is 2.5 GPM, however there are fixtures available that deliver only 1.6 GPM.
- Aerators: Aerators control the flow of water that comes through your faucets, producing a smooth stream of water. Aerators are an important part in controlling water waste, but they can be removed easily. Making sure that you have water-saving aerators on every faucet is an easy and inexpensive way to conserve water.
- Toilets: Design for water conservation, high efficiency toilets (HETs) use 20 percent less water per flush than ultra low flow (ULF) toilets. The current standard under U.S. Federal law says that toilets must not use more than 1.6 gallons per flush. HETs go beyond the standard and use 1.28 gallons per flush, a 20 percent savings.
- Recirculation Systems: Hot water recirculation systems, also known as “recirc systems,” deliver hot water to fixtures rapidly, using a pump to quickly move water from a water heater to the fixtures. The amount of water saved using a recirc system depends on the way it is used. When used optimally, recirc systems will eliminate wasted water that goes down the drain while your tenants wait for their desired water temperature.
The City of San Diego is also taking additional steps to make sure that tenants are not abusing their access to water. New building developments for multi-family and mixed-use buildings that haven’t received building permits are required to include submeters for every unit. According to a study by Industrial Economics, Inc. in June 1999, water submeters are associated with decreased water usage, as much as 18 to 39 percent less than in-rent properties. The City of San Diego implemented this ordinance on June, 2010. These new regulations bring accountability to the tenants so that they are charged for how much water is actually used and not by an allocation method, which is usually inaccurate in determining water usage for individual units.
San Diego’s water supply is becoming increasingly important as prices rise and our imported water becomes more difficult to obtain. Developing regular water conservation practices will not only save you money, but will help California’s continuing challenge to solve the water supply crisis.