According to Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability, an environmental initiative of the National Restaurant Association, the cost of water is rising faster than the inflation rate, and your water bills are going to take a bigger bite out of your budget each year. There isn’t much you can do to lower the cost of water, but you can help stem the tide by using less of it. Easier said than done? Not really. Foodservice operations can take several steps to conserve water without much capital or operational investment.
Low-Cost Water Savers
Conserve suggests the following low-cost water-saving tips that you can share with your clients:
Encourage employees to conserve: Educating employees on the importance of water conservation is vital. Everyone should be on board. Post water-saving measures and results or consider a program to reward employees for conserving water.
Cut back on water served to guests: Instead of automatic water service, simply ask your guests if they would like a glass of water. If one in four guests responded, “No, thank you,” the foodservice industry could potentially save more than 25 million gallons of water in one year.
Reduce sink and tap use: Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator and melt ice naturally instead of running water over them in the sink. Wash vegetables in a water basin and not under running water. Soak pots and pans and scrape dishes and cookware before washing them.
Test and repair leaks: A faucet leaking just a tenth of a gallon of water a minute wastes 50,000 gallons or more of water a year, says the Environmental Protection Agency. Leaky toilets are problems too. Check for leaks by placing a small amount of food coloring in the tank. If you see the coloring in the toilet bowl 20 or 30 minutes later, you have a leak.
Keep water temperature at the right level: Use a thermometer to make sure you’re not heating water hotter than needed. Water in a warewasher should be at a temperature determined by the manufacturer. Water for hand washing should be at 110 degrees Fahrenheit under most health and safety codes.
Install low-flow spray valves: Low-flow spray valves can save your clients up to $1,000 a year, according to Pacific Gas & Electric’s Food Service Technology Center (PG&E FSTC). These valves are so efficient that some states require low-flow pre-rinse spray valves for new purchases.
Check with your local utility or water district for rebates or repayment programs.
Use the warewasher wisely: Load your warewasher’s racks and check the temperature and pressure. If the pressure is above 25 psi, you could be using more water than needed. Turn off dishwashers when not in use to save energy.
Be efficient with laundry: Operations with on-site laundry should use the appropriate wash cycle and size, and wash only full loads as much as possible.
Conserve outside too: Sweep or blow sidewalks and parking lots clean rather than hose them off with water.
Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation system to water plants and lawns. Set irrigation systems on timers. Plant native shrubs and flowers that require less care and water.
Invest in Water Savers
Conserve recommends that when it comes time to replace equipment, invest in energy- and water-efficient equipment. Equipment that meets U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR® and/or CEE criteria saves not only water and energy but also money!
Install aerators: Water-efficient aerators in kitchen and restroom sinks can save as much as a gallon of water per minute.
Make toilets more efficient: Install ultra-low-flow toilets and waterless urinals. If you can’t replace existing toilets, adjust the flush valves or install dams.
Upgrade warewashers: Many newer warewashers use as little as a gallon of water or less per rack of dishes washed. Some have gas booster heaters to save energy. Some use a chemical rinse instead of a hot-water rinse. Although more expensive initially, energy-efficient warewashing systems can reduce energy bills over time.
Install on-demand water heaters: These cost-effective water heaters heat water only when needed.
Purchase or set up an efficient laundry system: A rinse-water recycling system or high-efficiency washers and dryers conserve both water and energy.
Replace steam cookers: Connectionless steamers use drastically less water than boiler-based steamers. PG&E FSTC test results have shown as much as a 90 percent increase in water efficiency by using an EPA ENERGY STAR qualified connectionless steamer in place of a conventional steamer.