Simple steps can reduce water use and help your business’s bottom line
By Jennifer Carlile
Restaurateurs spend thousands of hours creating delicious food and delivering memorable experiences for their customers. Decisions about food, staffing and restaurant ambiance are vital, but restaurateurs may be missing out on a secret ingredient that can affect the bottom line: water efficiency.
Particularly in Atlanta, having one of the highest combined water and sewer rates of any large city in the country, restaurateurs would benefit by instituting water efficiency measures. These range from actions such as repairing leaky faucets and replacing water wasting toilets, urinals and pre-rinse spray valves (PRSVs) with WaterSense models, to major equipment purchases such as ENERGY STAR dishwashers, combi-ovens and air-cooled ice machines.
Every drop really does count. Fortunately, there are programs and resources available to help Atlanta restaurants become more water and energy efficient.
The City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience is partnering with 100 Resilient Cities, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (the District) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) to launch a Water Efficient Restaurant Certificate (WERC) program. And even if your restaurant is not in the metro Atlanta area, your business will benefit from the following tips.
Why You Should WERC It
WERC is intended to help restaurants reduce water usage and potentially lower their water bills. Keeping utility bills reasonable is important for any business, but perhaps especially for smaller, independent restaurants. With that in mind, WERC is targeting minority- and female- owned restaurants to help ensure their success in the marketplace.
Restaurants participating in WERC must agree to have, basic water-saving actions:
1. Install WaterSense pre-rinse spray valves (PRSVs) with a flow rate of 1.28 gallons-per- minute (gpm) or less;
2. Install WaterSense toilets that use 1.28 gallons-per- ush (gpf) or less (either tank-style or commercial-style);
3. Install WaterSense urinals that use 0.5 gpf or less;
4. Fix all leaks; and
5. Institute a water-efficiency training program for staff.
The first 100 participants will receive a complimentary WaterSense PRSV and a copy of the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s (AWE) “Commercial Kitchens Water Use Efficiency and Best Practices Guide.” The AWE Guide offers a comprehensive list of best practices, technology applications and in-restaurant case studies devoted to water efficiency for restaurants.
If participating restaurants already have fixtures that comply with some of the WERC requirements, they can fulfill the other actions and still qualify for the WERC certificate.
It is important to remember that fixture replacements alone don’t guarantee savings. Installing new, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures won’t reduce usage if leaks aren’t repaired. If restaurant staff don’t practice water-efficient behaviors, repairs and replacements won’t be as effective.
What Difference Can a WaterSense Toilet Make?
The chart below is a conservative estimate of potential water savings resulting from the replacement of a pre-1992 toilet using 3.5 gpf with a WaterSense toilet using 1.28 gpf.
The City of Atlanta bills per CCF (1 CCF = 748 gallons) for water, with increasing rates for increased usage (1-3 CCF = $12.32 per CCF; 4-6 CCF = $18.98 per CCF; 7- above CCF = $21.85 per CCF). Considering that toilets in an average Atlanta restaurant are likely used far more than 30 times a day, installing water-efficient toilets reduces water usage dramatically. The same principle applies to urinals, PRSVs and faucet aerators (for lavatory and hand-washing sinks).
Restaurateurs that want to do more than WERC requires may consider replacement of equipment such as ice machines, commercial dishwashing machines and certain ovens with water- efficient models, per AWE Guide recommendations. High-water use activities should be evaluated, while new technology and best management practices should be considered.
Dipper wells can be a high-water use area that can be made more efficient. Jamba Juice, for example, installed new technology, the iScoopShower, that reduced water usage dramatically at their locations. Given projected water savings, users can see a return on their investment in less than a year.
Water efficiency initiatives can also aid restaurants located in buildings that are participating in the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge (ABBC). The ABBC calls for commercial buildings participating in the Challenge to reduce energy and water usage 20 percent by 2020. Building water and energy data is measured for ABBC participants; therefore, a restaurant located in a mixed-use ABBC property has a wonderful opportunity to seek water and energy efficiency strategies.
Restaurateurs are busy and have limited time to spare. Implementing simple water-efficiency practices can help ensure a more prosperous, less leaky 2018.
Jennifer Carlile, a LEED Green Associate and an Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP), manages water and energy programs for the City of Atlanta Office of Resilience and has 12 years of experience in the water industry. A frequent presenter at state and national conferences, she has expertise in water efficiency, water policy, green infrastructure, and rainwater harvesting. For more information about WERC or restaurant water efficiency in general, you can contact Jennifer at 404.807.9423 or vog.a1548291159gatna1548291159lta@e1548291159lilra1548291159cj1548291159.