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Water Conservation Strategies In Corrections

Water and the New Urgency

By E. W. Bob Boulware, P.E., MBA[i]

As the planet’s population and industrial output continues to grow, water scarcity and water stress will be experienced in more and more regions of the United States and the world in general. Conservation can take us so far but beyond there will be a need for creative thinking and the development of alternative sources of water.

It is expected this increase in water demand will be accompanied by a rapid rise in water and sewer costs. Exhibit #1 indicates the rise in water and sewer costs is predicted to exceed all other costs. Where in previous years, the cost of water has been a minor part of an operating budget, looking toward the future; it will become an important component to operating costs.

How to anticipate this cost, and developing plans of action to minimize the impact, will become the difference between success or failure of managing future business and facilities.

Where are we now?

The first step to managing a facilities water budget is to survey how much water comes into a facility, how it is used and how it is disposed of. For combined sewer bills, the sewer bill is generally based on water consumption. Unless metered separately, water used for irrigation includes a charge for sewage disposal that is not used. A water audit, much like an energy audit, summarizes sources and uses and identifies opportunities for conservation and reuse.

A good first step is to increase the water use efficiency by reducing waste and phasing in high efficiency plumbing fixtures and systems. Typically that will only save 15%-20%, which is a good start but still leaves you vulnerable to price increases from cost and increased demand, which will reduce or eliminate the savings. To really get ahead of the water and sewer cost

issue, the prudent facility manager should look to more creative options for water and waste management.

Some simple options available for consideration include:

  • Rainwater Collection

  • Stormwater collection

  • Air conditioning Condensate reclaim

  • Greywater Reclaim

Rainwater Collection:

Collecting rainwater predates the bible. As it falls from the sky, it approximates distilled water, being mostly devoid of minerals and chemicals. It makes an ideal source of water for laundries, (where less soap is required), cooling tower makeup (with limited scale producing hardness), watering livestock and pets, and vehicle washing (less soap and less spotting). Once the infrastructure of storage and distribution is established, the water source is free with filter replacement and normal pump maintenance the only maintenance required. If brought into an occupied space the water is required to be maintained at water quality standards per ARCSA/ASPE/ANSI 63 /Design Standards for Rainwater Collection Systems.

Rainwater was provided to supplement the water supply for Western Virginia Regional Jail, initially as a means to gain LEED points. AECOM Engineering, working with Rain Management Solutions of Salem Virginia, utilized the 261,000 square roof as their collection surface to harvest the rain. A siphonic drainage system conveyed rainwater to four (4) 30,000 gallon underground cisterns where the water was filtered and used by the prison laundry.

Figure 1 Western Virginia Regional Jail

When the water savings from all the water conservation measures were totaled, the savings was nearly 11 million