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5 steps to conserve water in your small business

You might not think of water as a limited resource. If you live in a developed country, all you have to do is turn on the faucet to gain access to clean water.

But water scarcity is becoming a bigger issue by the day—and it affects every continent. More than 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries. More than 1.4 billion people live in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability. And 4 billion people—nearly two-thirds of the global population—experience severe water scarcity at least one month each year, according to the United Nations.

As the world’s population continues to grow, water use grows at more than twice the rate. Changing your water usage and taking steps to conserve water in your small business might feel like a drop in the bucket. But remember, small businesses represent 90% of businesses globally. Together, small business owners can make a big wave.

5 easy ways to reduce water consumption in your small business

Conserving water is easier than you might think. Most water usage comes from things like landscaping, heating and cooling, and plumbing. And most water “waste” stems from inefficiencies in these systems. With that in mind, here are some easy ways you can reduce water use in your business, save money, and benefit the environment.

1. Rethink your landscaping

Lush landscaping can require hundreds of gallons of water each week—and a lot of that water ends up on the sidewalk. But there are a few things you can do to increase the efficiency of your landscape watering:

  • Check your sprinkler coverage. Make sure the water is hitting the grass and plants—not the sidewalk.
  • Use moisture sensors to ensure you’re watering only when the landscaping really needs it.
  • Irrigate early in the morning or early in the evening to avoid losing water to evaporation, and use mulch to retain moisture.
  • Invest in drought-tolerant plants and low-water landscaping, like rocks, or use native plants. Native landscapes are built to survive in local weather.

Rethink landscaping

2. Go low-flow

Let’s talk about toilets. Toilets account for more than a quarter of all water used in the average home or office building. Replacing an old, inefficient toilet with a low-flush model can cut toilet water use in half. Older toilets can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush, or more than 12,775 gallons of water per person per year. Newer toilets use only up to 1.6 gallons per flush, or 2,920 gallons per person per year. If you’re not using a high-efficiency toilet, you may be flushing your water conservation efforts down the drain.

In addition to low-flow toilets, consider investing in waterless urinals, low-flow faucets, and aerated faucet heads to cut water consumption in the bathroom. Replacing inefficient faucets can save 700 gallons of water per year.

Low flow toilets

3. Install high-efficiency appliances

Much like toilets, modern washing machines, dishwashers, and other water-dependent appliances use much less water than the older models. If it’s been a long time since you’ve installed or replaced the dishwasher in the breakroom, perhaps it’s time to invest in a high-efficiency model.

Look for Energy Star or WaterSense labeled products. These products are certified to use at least 20% less water than conventional models, and they’re guaranteed to perform as well or better.

4. Minimize HVAC system use

A heating and cooling system accounts for nearly half of a small business’s water consumption. Commercial buildings use more water for heating and cooling than for any other purpose. Taking steps to minimize the strain on your HVAC system not only minimizes energy consumption within your business but also decreases your water usage.

There are alternatives to forcing your air conditioner to pump cool air around the clock. Use fans to move stagnant air, make sure doors and windows are properly sealed, and use sun control window films or shades to reduce heat. Keep backrooms and unused spaces at minimum settings and use a programmable thermostat to power your HVAC system down at the end of the day.

Minimize hvac usage

5. Perform regular maintenance

Beyond low-flow toilets and drought-tolerant landscaping, there are a few things you should do regularly to keep tabs on your business’s water consumption.

  1. Regularly check for leaks. Leaks can drip away gallons of water each day and cause major (and expensive) problems down the road.
  2. Know your numbers. Understanding your water and utility bills can help you spot unexpected spikes (and leaks).
  3. Conduct regular water audits. Examine how much water your business uses and look for opportunities to use less. Companies that use massive amounts of water can and should get professional help when it comes to auditing water usage and cutting water consumption.
  4. Get employees on board. Every person who works at your business or in your building plays a vital role in your green efforts. Talk to employees about water consumption, encourage them to reduce water use, and work together to think up new ways to be more water conscientious.

Good for the world, good for your business

Investing in greener water solutions for your business might cost a bit more upfront, but you’ll save (and make!) more money in the long run.

After all, when you adopt water conservation practices for your business, you’re not just helping the environment—you’re helping your business grow. Today’s consumers are more likely to invest in brands that “do the right thing” when it comes to sustainability. Businesses that seek to improve the planet gain a competitive edge by improving efficiency and building a strong brand reputation.

Plus, reducing water use can lower your business’s energy bills and utility costs. Understanding your water bills can help you spot leaks and problems right away, so you can avoid costly repairs down the road. And if your business operates in a state that’s experiencing water shortages, you might even qualify for tax incentives that reward your conservation efforts.

Choosing sustainable solutions always pays off. Saving water is vital to the health of your business, your community, and the planet. Together, we can reduce the demand on the world’s limited water resources. Sign the SME Climate Commitment today and join thousands of small business owners worldwide who are tackling climate change—one drop at a time.

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