It’s National Groundwater Awareness Week, a great time to consider water efficiency both at home and in the workplace.
At home, the National Groundwater Association (NGWA) wants you to schedule your annual water well checkup if you have one. At work, because the water source for your commercial facility is a much larger component, the focus should be on water usage.
But first, what is GROUNDWATER? Why does it matter? Should I be concerned?
According to The Groundwater Foundation:
- Groundwater is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and rock. It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand, and rocks called aquifers.
- Groundwater provides much of the flow of many streams; often lakes and rivers are “windows” to the water table.
- Groundwater supplies drinking water to 51% of the total U.S. population and 99% of the rural population.
- Groundwater helps grow our food. 64% of groundwater is used for irrigation to grow crops.
- Groundwater is an important component in many industrial processes.
- Groundwater is a source of recharge for lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Should we be concerned?
- About 27 trillion gallons of groundwater are withdrawn for use in the United States each year.
- The US uses 79.6 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for public supply, private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and other purposes.
- Threats to groundwater include overuse, nitrates, improperly managed wastewater, pharmaceuticals and personal care products that are improperly flushed or leach from landfills and many more.
These facts compel us to do what we can to conserve water wherever possible. As noted in previous posts, commercial buildings are an excellent place to seek water efficiency because commercial buildings consume over 10% of the water used daily in the US.
Let’s look at 10 ways to save water in commercial buildings according to Mark Spigarelli of CCJM Engineers in Chicago:
- Low-flow plumbing fixtures – A previous post has discussed the role of toilets, urinals, faucets, and the restroom as whole when it comes to water-efficiency.
- Grey water – The idea behind grey water reclamation is simply getting the most out of the water through reuse.
- Rainwater harvesting – Commercial rainwater harvesting systems can be a viable option for owners and designers where a building with a large roof area also requires a high demand for nonpotable water.
- Pressure reduction – In many high-rise and commercial settings, domestic water booster pumps are necessary to overcome the loss of pressure due to increases in elevation and to maintain water supply in water towers and supply tanks.
- Insulate piping – In many existing commercial buildings hot water piping is either uninsulated or not insulated properly. As a result, when there is a demand for hot water, the user will wait at faucets and showers for the hot water to flow, resulting in significant water waste.
- Leak proofing/leak repair – Leaking pipes can go unnoticed, sometimes for years.
- Rain sensor on irrigation – One of the quickest and simplest ways to address water conservation in irrigation systems is to add a rain sensor.
- Cooling tower water recovery – Towers that are in good condition, operated properly, and well maintained allow chillers to operate at peak efficiency.
- Steam boiler blowdown – A typical strategy used to reduce the need for blowdown is to use automated controls and treatment.
- Educate users – The conservation of water reduces water waste and energy costs too, in both operation and production.
Thanks to National Groundwater Awareness Week, you are now armed with the knowledge of groundwater’s importance, and more importantly, 10 things you can do today to lessen the impact of your commercial building and save money through water-efficiency.