There was a study done in recent years that showed that travelers are less apt to be eco-sensitive while traveling. They are more apt to let the water run or crank up the air-conditioning or heat than if they were in their own homes. The results of the study did not surprise me. For the most part though, our industry has done a good job keeping those guest desires in check thanks to low-flow fixtures and energy management systems.
In regard to the bathroom, what I am wondering is if our industry is ready to take water conservation to another level. What I mean is, are we ready to reuse greywater—the water used to brush one’s teeth, shave, etc.—for a purpose such as flushing the toilet?
I will deal with shower/bath water at another time but for now let us consider the sink water that goes down the drain. Once that water leaves the tap it is considered greywater even though it is most likely not grey at all. On its way down the drain that water could easily be captured, filtered and cleaned up for reuse but it is not. Can you even imagine the water that is wasted this way by our industry each year?
Sink Faucet/Toilet Tank Combination
Perhaps you have seen the toilet tank lids that include a faucet for washing one’s hands? They are common in Japan where bathroom space is tight and at least a couple of major companies—TOTO and Caroma—offer them. The water from the faucet is used to flush the toilet below it. I recently came across a funky version of this on the treehugger website. Click here to check it out. As practical as these systems are, I am skeptical about them taking off anytime soon—at least here in the United States.
At a trade show last year I had an opportunity to see a sink water reuse system called AQUS. It is a Sloan Valve Co. product. If I knew of any other systems like it, I would mention them here. The AQUS system collects the water that goes down the bathroom sink, filters and disinfects it, and uses it to flush the toilet. It does not cross connect to the fresh water system nor does it inhibit backflow prevention. It simply recycles used water as the primary source for flushing the toilet, then supplements it with fresh water as needed. A sensor determines how much fresh water is needed but Mark Sanders, product line manager, Water Reuse, Sloan Valve told me that the ratio is typically 80 percent greywater and 20 percent fresh water.
The AQUS has not yet made its way into the lodging market but Mark told me his company plans to target our industry more aggressively soon. The AQUS either resides in a sink cabinet or can sit on a shelf below the sink when there is no cabinet. The AQUS system includes a screen filter and chlorine tablets to bring the quality of water up to a point where it can be reused in the toilet tank. In a residential setting, the AQUS will save about 6,000 gallons of fresh water a year. In a hotel environment one could expect at least similar savings in one guest bathroom. I neglected to ask Mark if his company had any plans to design a system for public restrooms but the technology would seem to make sense, especially in public restrooms with heavy traffic.
Potential Return on Investment
Mark told me the payback on his system will vary depending on who does the installation and what water and waste water costs are but it should be around three to five years. When asked what barriers his company runs up against when trying to sell the AQUS, Mark said that in some areas building codes for new construction do not allow the type of greywater reuse employed in the AQUS system. There is fear that the greywater would somehow mix with the fresh water. Mark assured me that could not happen with the AQUS.
What do you think? Would you consider installing a system like that described above? What would your concerns be? I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at (440) 243-2055 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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