By Morgan Shimabuku, Center for ReSource Conservation
Beginning in the fall of 2013 the Center for ReSource Conservation (CRC) began laying the foundation for a commercial water assessment program. Through a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and partnerships with a local expert consultant Water DM and six Front Range utilities, CRC created a commercial water assessment program to help utilities reach businesses and to help businesses save water.
The program focuses on the two most common areas of water use across the commercial sector: kitchen and restroom use. During the assessment the water technician measures flow rates, notes and reports any leaky faucets, showerheads or toilets, and identifies appliance models that use water. All of the data is gathered through an Excelbased CII Assessment Tool, created by The Brendle Group and the City of Boulder, with support from Colorado WaterWise. The Tool provides the back-end calculations for potential water and cost savings. It calculates the benefits of switching out inefficient fixtures with WaterSense standard fixtures, cost savings estimates (both for water and energy savings if the fixture uses hot water), and pay-back periods for all potential upgrades. The Tool allows for the input of unique utility rates and rebates in order to provide each business with a customized assessment of their potential for water savings improvements.
During the first year of the program CRC performed 25 assessments at 9 different types of businesses. From the first 22 assessments alone, CRC identified more than 9 million gallons of potential water savings and more than $77,000 in cost savings for the businesses through simple fixture upgrades (see table). From this list of fixtures aerators, showerheads, tank toilets and urinals were found to offer the highest potential for water and cost savings. This bodes well for water efficiency improvements within the commercial sector, as these products are not only readily available, but also relatively inexpensive. And with the recent passage of Senate Bill 14-103 in the Colorado state legislature, stores and suppliers will soon only be carrying WaterSense versions of these fixtures.
Not all businesses will decide to follow through with these upgrades immediately, but this kind of information is still useful to both the business and the utility. The business can use the information to plan for and implement fixture upgrades that make the most economic sense, while the utility can also plan for conservation programs that offer their businesses the most pertinent and impactful options through programs such as rebates or direct-installs.
While the commercial assessment program is still adapting to the demand and the needs of different water utilities and Colorado businesses, the findings from this initial stage in the program suggest that there are significant conservation opportunities within the commercial sector. A commercial assessment program is therefore a valuable offering within a well-rounded portfolio of water conservation programs.
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