Take the Plunge Into Sustainable Water Management

Varun Gowda, Senior Director, Product Management at ENGIE Insight

Recently we recognized World Water Day and the importance of businesses to implement sustainable water management practices to control their water use to ensure a more safe and reliable supply for communities. Aside from the important issue of conservation there is another critical focus for multi-site businesses: controlling costs. As I pointed out in my previous blog post, water is also the fastest rising utility cost across North America.

How to Leverage Data and Analytics to Optimize Water Consumption and Sustainability

The “energy revolution” of the early 2000s prompted businesses and consumers to start tracking and curbing their energy use. Today, we see this focus extending to other critical resources, like water. Many of our largest clients tell us that water is one of their biggest challenges, from conservation strategies to cost control. Managing this resource follows a very similar framework to energy: leverage your data to measure your “water footprint,” set goals for managing cost and consumption, identify projects to reduce use, and measure and report on economic, social and environmental impacts.

Site-level consumption data from utility invoices, combined with real-time/sensor-based data and analytics, has several advantages:

  • Benchmark use across your portfolio and compare usage site-to-site or month-to-month. This allows you to direct water-reduction projects where it will have the biggest payback.
  • Disaggregate water use and allocated consumption to different zones based on indoor/outdoor usage.
  • Monitor water use in real-time to immediately detect and fix anomalies.
  • Identify portfolio-level digital strategies for water management, including smart irrigation sensors, water flow sensors, and digital mesh networks. Combined with analytics and insight, businesses can see payback periods of just one to two years and simultaneously enhance water sustainability.

New Solutions for Reducing Water Costs and Protecting Supply

As the world looks to optimize water resources, there are countless examples of policy and innovation that can help businesses manage use, reduce costs, and protect water supplies. Here are just a few highlights:

New Water Products

When you open a tap to prep food, wash hands, or fill a cup with drinking water, you’re not only paying for the water itself, you’re paying the costs to treat, pump, and deliver that water to your door, all of which requires energy and leaves a carbon footprint. Multi-site companies should collect and track cost and consumption data by site, then leverage that data intelligence at the portfolio level to reduce water consumption with low flow fixtures, faucet sensors, appliance upgrades (i.e., smarter refrigeration or recirculating water), rain sensors on landscaping fixtures, or even behavioral changes.

New Water Programs

Depending on geography, some sites may be more affected by new policies and regulations put in place by states or municipalities that are increasing those delivery costs. The city of Austin is one example: it has developed a Water Forward plan that proposes giant aquifers that could store water underground (at a projected cost of $429 million over 21 years), while also recapturing and reusing water locally from sinks and air conditioners. The plan is the city’s long-term solution to having a cleaner, more resilient water supply.

Stormwater/Landscaping

While businesses don’t always pay for stormwater fees, more companies are being charged for pollution caused by runoff for their business. To help lessen runoff pollution in local waterways, the United States Green Building Council’s LEED Certification includes credits for using pervious concrete in building site design to help manage stormwater, essentially acting as a retention basin for storing rainwater. Other thoughtful design solutions include green roofs or parking lot swales to prevent runoff and reduce pollution.

Sustainable Water Management Success Stories

The restaurant industry is a high water user with one of the greatest opportunities to innovate and reduce water consumption and costs. ENGIE Insight has worked with dozens of clients to collect use data and offer insights on water reduction strategies.

  • Arby’s discovered irrigation at many locations was being misused, so they piloted a smart irrigation system at 85 sites—integrated with their energy management system—which monitored rain, current soil conditions and NOAA weather reports to adjust landscape irrigation schedules automatically. The project paid off almost immediately, netting 7.4 million gallons of water saved in just one year. Each pilot site also saved an average of $1,150 annually.
  • Shari’s Café & Pies saw significant results from redesigning their systems to include new efficient technologies. After an ENGIE Insight equipment audit found that dipper wells used to clean ice cream scoops were wasting 8 million gallons of water each year, the company switched to a new system that adds water in regular increments, rather than flowing perpetually. This shift reduced water usage by an average of 35 percent and even reduced natural gas by 15-20 percent. Shari’s also upgraded to ENERGY STAR® qualified dishwasher systems to further reduce water and natural gas usage.

Leveraging the water data you already receive through utility bills and IoT sensors, combined with expert analytics and insights, can help you determine where you are now and set future goals for reduction. ENGIE Insight works with our multi-site clients across multiple industries, leveraging comprehensive, portfolio-wide water expense data to digitally map their integrated water footprint in both their operations and supply chain. This process gives our clients insight to assess use, measure their economic, social and environmental impacts, and set goals for sustainable water management.

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