Ask an owner or manager of a business why he or she should use water efficiently and the response would likely have to do with money: Use more water than needed and the cost goes up exponentially. Higher rate tiers per hundred cubic feet (Ccf), or 748 gallons, are applied when usage exceeds certain amounts. Sewer fees are also assessed by the volume of water used by a business.
But another reason — and equally important — that business owners and managers strive to be water efficient has to do with public perception.
It is no secret that Tucson and its residents have a long-standing reputation of using water wisely. Other cities and utilities that are now grappling with high water demand and a fluctuating supply often look to Tucson for best practices.
Respect and appreciation for a finite, vital resource can be found everywhere here. Thus, if a business operation is perceived as having a disregard for how much water it consumes, the chance of public outcry or outrage becomes a real possibility.
This is not to say higher usage necessarily equates to inefficiency and waste. A large manufacturing operation will dwarf a mini-plaza retail area in the amount of water used. A hotel may go through more water daily than a group of bed-and-breakfast cottages might in a month.
Throughout the years, Tucson Water has worked with its commercial customers to help them with water efficiency. “We do not ask our customers not to use water,” says Alan Forrest, director of Tucson Water. “Rather, we urge them to use water wisely and contact us for any assistance they may need.”
To that end, Tucson Water has five options to help businesses manage water use:
1. Is the water portion of your utility services statement extremely high? Are you unsure where water is used in your operation and how to account for it? Call Tucson Water for a “high water bill investigation.” Staff will perform a free basic water audit and show you what happens to the water after it passes through your meter. Graphs displaying your water use history for recent years and a map showing locations of your meter(s) are also provided.
2. There is a direct relationship between the amount of water used and the amount of energy needed for this and other aspects of your business operation. The City of Tucson, through Tucson Water and the Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development, offers free Green Business Certification audits designed to help establish a benchmark for sustainable business practices and to provide support to implement strategies to obtain set goals.
3. A significant percentage of a business’ water usage takes place in restrooms. Older, inefficient toilets and urinals can use four or five gallons per flush. Tucson Water has rebate programs designed to help defray the costs of installing WaterSense high-efficiency toilets and urinals, and water-free urinals. Rebates from $100 to $500 are available and staff will perform a pre-inspection to make sure you get the best-performing product available.
Got sinks? Do you know how many gallons of water per minute the aerators allow? Have a commercial food preparation kitchen? You might be surprised at how much water the rinse sprayers use. Tucson Water can provide a limited number of new high efficient aerators and rinse sprayers for free so you can evaluate performance and select the most efficient items for your business operation.
4. Tucson Water, in partnership with the University of Arizona and Pima County Cooperative Extension, hosts the Smartscape Professional Certification Series for Green Industry personnel (property managers, landscape maintenance and installation workers, nursery staff, landscape architects and designers, and other allied professionals). The free series focuses on landscape and irrigation management, two of the bigger challenges for businesses in managing water usage. Whether you maintain your landscape on your own, but particularly if you pay someone else for this service, it is a good idea to know what the best practices are to ensure your landscape looks its best, while minimizing the amount of water used.
5. Water Conservation Inspectors play an important role in helping commercial customers use water efficiently. The majority of their contact with business owners and managers usually involves water discharging from a property. Education, through a visit and walk-through inspection with the owner, manager, and landscape contractor, normally resolves any issues; however, the Tucson City Code provides enforcement options if violations are not addressed or are continually repeated.
Business owners and managers focus on longer-term goals for success. The idea is to not only sustain their operation, but thrive. Tucson Water’s goals are similar: Manage the water supply so everyone will prosper in the decades to come.
An important component for both parties is the Drought Response Plan and the four response stages that would be declared based on threats to Tucson Water’s Colorado River supplies or local system indicators that signify negative impacts to the utility’s groundwater supplies. Watch for more information about the plan and how it will impact commercial customers.
“Our programs are designed to meet the needs of the business owner and manager,” says Daniel Ransom, conservation program manager for Tucson Water. “While we are working to ensure that our businesses can manage water use to save water and money in a cost-effective way over the long term, we also need to consider that Stage 2 drought conditions kick in another set of measures. Our program is designed to prepare businesses for managing water during drought.”
Contact Michael Carson, public information specialist for Tucson Water, at firstname.lastname@example.org.