Venues & Theatres > Water

Indoor Water Efficiency

Water audits

A water audit analyzes a facility’s water use and identifies ways to make it more efficient. An audit reviews domestic, sanitary, landscaping, and process-water use and recommends ways to increase your facility’s water-use efficiency. An audit is often free of charge and can save your organization money on avoided water use costs.

Consider contacting a contractor to increase the efficiency of your organization’s water use. Some contractors will conduct audits of water use and will help finance water efficiency improvements in exchange for a share of cost savings. For a list of water conservation contractors, visit the American Water Works Association’s Sourcebook. Contractors who perform water efficiency audits can be found under “conservation.” Many of these companies operate nationally.

For detailed information on water audits and water efficiency, see New Mexico’s Water Conservation Guide for Commercial, Institutional and Industrial Users (PDF).

Visit the EPA’s WaterSense Program for additional water conservation opportunities in your state.

Water audits save money

Before switching to waterless urinals in 2007, each of the 178 urinals at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles (home to the LA Lakers, Clippers, Kings, and Sparks) was consuming 44,000 gallons of water each year. Now each waterless urinal saves roughly 4.5 HCF per month, totaling over 7,000,000 gallons per year. The STAPLES Center now saves over $28,000 per year in direct water costs, not including sewer charges, reduced maintenance costs, and any other municipal taxes.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at LaGuardia Airport upgraded its restroom facilities to increase the water-use efficiency of toilets, faucets, and showers. It installed a leak detection system, ultra–low flow toilets, high efficiency aerators for faucets, and flow restrictors on showerheads. These improvements have yielded annual water savings of almost $140,000, compared with an initial capital cost of only $90,000.

Unilever, which produces over 400 brands of home, personal care, and food products, performed a water audit of a laundry detergent factory in Georgia in 1995 and then embarked upon a program of increased efficiency efforts, including rainwater collection, wastewater reuse, and educating employees on the economic and environmental importance of water conservation. These improvements save the company over $100,000 a year.

Low-Flow Fixtures, Waterless Urinals, and Water-Efficient Appliances

Installing water-efficient appliances, low-flow fixtures, and aerators saves money and water. Aerators for faucets and showers require an initial capital investment, but they can often pay back the investment in under a year, especially in situations where they are in heavy use.

Installing waterless urinals not only saves water, but also reduces energy use, infrastructure costs, water discharge costs, and maintenance costs. A single waterless fixture at a stadium or arena can save an average of 40,000 gallons of water per year, and saves energy by eliminating the need for water to be transported to the urinal or discharged to a water treatment facility. By reducing the load on treatment plants, waterless systems can help reduce the need for costly water treatment capacity and reduce the incidence of overflow events at treatment facilities. Research also shows that waterless urinals are more hygienic than traditional urinals, as the absence of water reduces bacterial growth.

Dual flush toilets also offer water savings opportunities. A dual flush toilet offers two flush settings for either solid or liquid waste, typically 1.6 gpf vs .8 gpf, and can reduce water use by as much as 70%.

Many utilities and city governments offer incentives to purchase and install low-flow and waterless fixtures. Contact your water utility to learn more about these programs.

For water rebates near you, consult EPA’s Water Rebate Finder.

Product Specifications

  • Toilets: 1.28 gpf or 1.6/0.8 gpf dual flush
  • Urinals: 0.125 gpf or waterless
  • Faucets: .5 gpm
  • Shower heads: 1.5 gpm
  • Service sinks 2.0 gpm

Also consider replacing old washing machines with front-loading, water-efficient washing machines for your organization’s laundry. Consult Energy Star’s Commercial Clothes Washers for product listings.

Low-flow Fixtures and Waterless Urinals Save Money

Before switching to waterless urinals, each of the 178 urinals at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles was consuming 44,000 gallons of water each year. Now each waterless urinal saves roughly 4.5 HCF per month, totaling over 7,000,000 gallons per year. The STAPLES Center now saves over $28,000 per year in direct water costs, not including sewer charges, reduced maintenance costs, and any other municipal taxes.

The Veterans Affairs Hospital in Portland, Oregon performed a water audit in 2007 and implemented a variety of water-saving measures, including low-flow toilets, faucets, and showers. Savings from these low-flow fixtures amount to nearly $20,000 per year, reducing annual water use by over 1.6 million gallons.

Environmental Benefits

Almost half the world’s population lives without a steady supply of clean drinking water. In the United States, many sources of freshwater are being depleted faster than they can be recharged by natural processes. This is especially true in the Southwest. The Colorado River, for example, which supplies water to 30 million people in seven states and Mexico, is at its lowest level since water flow records began being kept about 100 years ago. It often runs dry before it reaches the sea, adversely impacting farmers, residents, and aquatic life.

Water conservation is especially important in light of the looming pressures of global warming, which threaten to significantly increase evaporation as well as instances of severe drought. Water scarcity will rival sea level rise as one of the consequences of global climate disruption. Water conservation measures can help to ensure that future generations have access to the water they need.

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Landscaping

Efficient landscaping design and strategies can be an opportunity to substantially reduce outdoor water use.

Landscape Design and Maintenance

Consider the following design strategies and irrigation practices to improve the water efficiency of your landscaping:

  • Use xeriscaping techniques
  • Choose locally adapted and water efficient plants
  • Mulch around plants to prevent evaporation, and keep roots cool and moist in hotter climates
  • Water plants overnight or at the coolest part of the day to avoid evaporation
  • Use efficient irrigation technologies
  • Install submeters to help identify leaks and track consumption, and regularly check systems for leaks or damage
  • Use non-potable water for irrigation, such as captured rainwater, greywater, or recycled wastewater

Xeriscaping

Consider xeriscaping techniques when designing your landscaping. Xeriscaping is a landscaping method that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation, and is especially beneficial in arid regions where water is scarce. The basic principles of xeriscaping include proper site design, soil analysis and improvement, water-efficient plant selection, practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, mulching, and appropriate maintenance.  For more information on xeriscaping, visit  Denver Water’s Xeriscaping page or CalRecycle’s Xeriscaping page.

Plant Selection
Choose native, adaptive, and drought-tolerant plants.  Native plants that grow naturally in an area require less water, fertilizer, and pest control.  Visit the Plant Conservation Alliance for information about native plants you can grow in your state, as well as invasive species to be avoided in your area. Adaptive plants are non-native, but can adapt well to the region’s local climate and soil conditions.   By choosing native, adaptive, and drought-tolerant plants for your landscaping, which require less water, your organization can save water and money. 

Efficient Irrigation Technologies
Drip irrigation systems save water and reduce fertilizer needs by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots through a network of valves, pipes, or tubing.  This method reduces evaporation and surface runoff, increasing irrigation efficiency to 90%. While a drip irrigation system might cost more up front than a conventional irrigation system, reduced costs water savings can often help offset these costs.

Weather-based irrigation controllers can also yield considerable water savings. Weather-based control systems adjust irrigation scheduling to actual conditions onsite or historical weather data, to allow for changes in watering schedules based on weather conditions and water requirements for plants.  Soil moisture sensors and rain sensors are also useful technologies to make watering schedules more efficient.

For a detailed guide on efficient landscaping and outdoor water use, see WaterWise Landscaping and Watering Guide (PDF).

For a detailed guide on water use efficiency, see New Mexico’s Water Conservation Guide for Commercial, Institutional and Industrial Users.

Efficient Irrigation Saves Money
The Harvard Business School Campus installed a computerized irrigation system that monitors ambient rainfall and weather, at a total cost of under $250,000. The system senses the irrigation needs of zones all around the campus and keeps moisture levels in balance throughout the year. The system saves almost 5 million gallons of water every year, totaling about $50,000 in annual savings.

In 2002, the Shoreline School District in Seattle, in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities, implemented a number of water conservation efforts focused on increasing the efficiency of the district’s irrigation operations at sixteen sites north of Seattle. Improvements included rain sensors and a more analytic approach in determining irrigation schedules. After an initial capital cost of $175,000, the district now saves over $50,000 per year. Case Study (PDF)

Environmental Benefits

In the summer, outdoor water use for landscaping can exceed all indoor water use for the entire year. Native species of grasses, plants, and trees have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years and are well adapted to regional climates, soils, and pests. Because of this, they require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides, saving money, conserving water, and reducing water pollution. Conventional irrigation technologies and daytime watering often result in water evaporating before it can be consumed by plants. By using water-efficient irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation, and by watering in the evening and overnight, your organization can reduce the amount of water that evaporates, saving water and saving money.

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Urban Runoff/Stormwater Management

As rain falls and washes over rooftops, streets, and parking lots, it collects dirt, trash, and other pollutants and often carries them into rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans. Consider taking steps to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from your facility.

Tips to reduce urban runoff

  • Sweep sidewalks and other pervious surfaces instead of washing with a hose
  • Consider permeable surface alternatives to conventional asphalt and concrete
  • Maximize other permeable surfaces and vegetated areas such as rain gardens, lawns and landscaped areas
  • Consider planting grass and trees on rooftops

For more information on stormwater reduction, see the resources below.

Stormwater Management Can Save Money
At 2.5 acres, the green roof atop the Target Center, home to the Minnesota Timberwolves, captures about a million gallons of stormwater per year, saving $10,000 annually in stormwater charges, as well as helping to alleviate the urban heat island effect.

Environmental Benefits

In many parts of the country, urban runoff is the single greatest source of water pollution. In addition to dirt and debris, urban runoff can include such toxic components as oil and heavy metals like lead and mercury, in addition to other pollutants that might find their way onto roads and rooftops. These pollutants have a negative effect on drinking water supplies, recreation, and wildlife. By taking steps to minimize urban runoff, your organization can help reduce these negative impacts.

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Water Recycling and Reuse

Wastewater Recycling

Recycled wastewater systems disinfect water collected from showers and baths, laundry, and bathroom sinks for non-potable water uses including irrigation and toilets. Although treating greywater requires an initial capital investment, doing so conserves water and can yield savings in annual water bills. Review the examples below and consider installing a water recycling system when building a new facility or renovating an existing building. 

Wastewater recycling can save money
Unilever, which produces over 400 brands of home, personal care, and food products, performed a water audit of a laundry detergent factory in Georgia in 1995 and then embarked upon a program of increased efficiency efforts, including rainwater collection, wastewater reuse, and educating employees on the economic and environmental importance of water conservation. These improvements save the company over $100,000 a year.

Solaire Apartments, located in Battery Park in New York City, was built in 2003 and contains 250 units. Water from irrigation, cooling towers, and toilets is collected, treated, and reused again for those purposes. The system reduces the building’s freshwater use by 75%.

Rainwater Harvesting

Collecting rainwater off roofs for reuse can be an environmentally preferable and a potentially economical approach to fulfilling a portion of your facility’s water needs. Rainwater catchment systems, which can include cisterns, rain barrels, and other simple devices to capture and reuse rainwater, can be designed and installed on a small scale as well as at larger scales.

Review the examples below, and consider installing a rainwater catchment system when embarking upon new construction or renovation.

Rainwater catchment examples

Environmental Benefits

Almost half the world’s population lives without a reliable supply of clean drinking water. In the United States, many sources of freshwater are being depleted faster than they can be recharged by natural processes. This is especially true in the Southwest. The Colorado River, for example, which supplies water to 30 million people in seven states and Mexico, is at its lowest level since water flow records began being kept about 100 years ago. It often runs dry before it reaches the sea, adversely impacting farmers, residents, and aquatic life.

Water conservation is especially important in light of the looming pressures of global warming, which threaten to significantly increase evaporation as well as instances of severe drought. Water scarcity will rival sea level rise as one of the consequences of global climate disruption. Recycling wastewater helps reduce pressure on drinking water resources.

Harvesting rainwater helps preserve natural water resources and stream and river ecosystems. Rainwater catchment systems also can reduce the need to transport water from distant locations, thereby reducing energy use and infrastructure requirements. Water conservation measures can help to ensure that future generations have access to the water they need. 

Additional Resources