As West evaporates, experts plot ways to help businesses save water
As models predict another La Niña for the coming winter, which could lead to another dry year, leaders of water agencies and other groups from across California and the western United States met Tuesday to discuss how best to get commerce and industry to use less water.
While residential water use has declined, commercial and industrial users need retrofits, new equipment and new ways of doing business when it comes how much liquid “gold” they consume.
One thing meeting attendees agree on is that it will take more than financial incentives to push enterprises to make the switch. They will need to be convinced that shifting to new systems will increase efficiency, production and more.
“We work with businesses to show them how following best water practices can part of their standard business practice,” said Krista Guerrero, resource specialist for the Metropolitan Water District. “We work with businesses on helping to meet some of the costs, but also showing how changing out the equipment can help them increase their capacity.”
She highlighted a commercial laundry which underwent a retrofit through a water savings program offered by Metropolitan Water District. The laundry not only saved water over a 10-year period but also increased its business capacity. The district uses a 10-year time frame when determining total water savings.
As many communities institute programs to encourage individuals to rip out lawns and replace them with artificial turf surfaces or other drought-resistant plants, meeting attendees discussed whether artificial grass or a different type of grass blend is the answer.
“Many communities have urban forests and many of those urban forests still rely on individuals watering their yards, even if it is only for a short period of time,” said Stephanie Duer, water conservation manager for Salt Lake City, Utah. “We looked at alternative grass blends and found a mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass worked best for our area. It only needed to be watered once a month and cut once a year.”
She highlighted the importance of not only finding solutions to reducing outdoor water use but also of being mindful that proposed alternatives do not lead to additional problems.
Individuals living within an homeowners association (HOA) have little say over watering their lawns or if they can even rip out their lawns at all.
Matt Davenport, president and chief executive officer of Monarch Environmental, said it is important to build relationships with managers and board members of HOAs. He said one thing HOAs fear is how going dry or tearing out lawns will affect the curb appeal of their development. Davenport said water agencies must work with HOAs to provide drawings and schematics of what the finished product will look like.
“Changing HOAs will require someone to be a project champion in the community, highlight more than just the financial incentives and savings, and over-communicate with the HOA board and community,” said Davenport.
Joni German, water resources specialist for San Diego County, highlighted the need to help underserved, tribal and rural communities. She said installing water-saving appliances and features in older commercial and residential buildings is important to help reduce water usage overall, but that many lack access to funding compared to new developments.
The goal of the webinar was to provide a sounding board for water users and agencies to talk to each other, provide information about best practices and solutions on how to reduce water use. A lively online chat between different individuals saw questions and issues raised and discussed even as California appears poised to enter a fourth year of drought.