California’s Drought Outlook and How These Water Conservation Processes Can Help


By Erin Wallace

Erin is a former teacher, now full-time freelancer, who regularly writes in the education, healthcare and HVAC spaces.

According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, “water conservation strategies and technologies are often the most overlooked aspects of a whole-building design strategy”. But, planning for various water uses within a commercial building is increasingly becoming more of a priority for contractors. A few reasons for this shift include:

  • New and existing water resources are becoming increasingly scarce, especially in California
  • Water consumption per capita continues to increase annually
  • New water supply options are often expensive or unavailable

 

California’s Drought Outlook

In 2016, California experienced exceptional drought conditions, but by February 2017, most of the state had recovered thanks to weeks of record-setting rain. Still, drought conditions continue to plague the region on a seasonal basis.

As of March 2018, 21 percent of the state is experiencing D2 levels of drought, or what is classified as “severe” by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). An additional 25 percent is experiencing only moderate drought (D1 levels).

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center warns that much of the southern half of the state will be in a persistent drought phase at least until the end of May. When more hot weather sets in for the summer, the drought may continue at currently predicted levels or get worse.

For these reasons, it’s important for industry professionals and contractors to implement water-efficient practices at the facilities they manage or maintain, whether in California or elsewhere.

 

Impact for Industry Professionals

Regardless of what happens with California’s drought situation, water conservation strategies are important for property managers, general contractors and building owners to consider for existing and new construction projects.

In order to reduce water consumption at a given facility, these general strategies may be implemented by professional contractors:

  • Water-efficient plumbing fixtures: install ultra low-flow toilets and urinals, sensored sinks, low-flow sprinkler heads and water-efficient dishwashers
  • Irrigation systems and landscaping: incorporate low-flow outdoor sprinklers with economical watering schedules and generally water-efficient irrigation systems
  • Water recycling measures for gray water

 

Implement Appropriate Training

For these strategies to be successful, some level of employee training is necessary. All staff involved with installation and maintenance of water fixtures should understand aspects of a water conservation program. Critical components of this training for maintenance staff and general contractors might include:

  • A plan for reporting leaks, so they can be addressed quickly
  • Flyers and pamphlets to increase awareness of the facility’s water management plan

 

Leak Detection

Maintaining a water conservation policy requires timely leak detection and reporting. Leaks aren’t limited to aging facilities — they can also occur with new construction, especially when errors are made in the installation of fixtures or pipes. Contractors can meter a facility’s water consumption and monitor it for leaks to ensure water isn’t being wasted.

 

Landscaping

The National Institute of Building Sciences says that landscaping water usage can account for 20 percent or more of any facility’s total water consumption. Apartment complexes, hotels and businesses rely on pristine landscaping to attract new clients and maintain the general upkeep of outdoor areas. Spaces that require consistent watering should be fitted with efficient sprinkler heads that are on programmable timers and have rain water sensors, so they won’t run if it’s rained recently.

When contractors, facility managers and building owners implement these strategies for water conservation, they can help ensure water is being used by customers, employees and residents in an efficient manner that makes environmental sense.