Home Guest Columns Why the Era of Water Efficiency Has Arrived

Why the Era of Water Efficiency Has Arrived

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Klaus Reichardt

The Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria opened in 2017. As you can imagine, no expense was spared to ensure its guests would enjoy some of the most elegant accommodations to be found, not just in Southern California, but anywhere in the world. Moreover, with room rates ranging from $700 to more than $4,000 per night, their guests expected nothing less.

However, along with the elegant accommodations, the hotel took some very practical design steps, especially regarding water efficiency. Considering that one traditional urinal can use as much as 35,000 gallons of water per year, planners called for the men’s rooms in the hotel to have no-water urinal systems. No-water urinals use absolutely no water and hotel administrators concluded they also meet the high expectations of their hotel guests.

While we are in Beverly Hills, we should also mention that the Waldorf is not the only hotel with no-water urinals. Other top-rated hotels such as The Peninsula and the Mondrian, located right next door in West Hollywood, have also selected urinals that use no water. One reason for this shift to waterless fixtures is that some regional utilities are paying as much as $500 for each no-water urinal installed.

However, there is a much bigger reason why these hotels and other businesses throughout Southern California and across the United States are installing waterless urinals.

The era of water conservation and water efficiency has arrived. For decades, hotel properties have been focused on reducing energy consumption and making their use of energy more efficient. Now they are doing the same with water.

Reducing water consumption is no longer an afterthought. Water-reducing strategies are no longer installed on a “trial basis,” to see if they work and if guests find them acceptable. Instead, finding ways to reduce water consumption is now at the top of the list for many new hotel properties planned as well as those being renovated around the country and in many parts of the world.

Reasons Behind the Era

For decades, hotels have known they use vast volumes of water. While it has always been a cost consideration, for the most part, water in the United States has always been cheap. These charges were viewed as necessary, but not overburdening, operating expenses.

That all began to change in the 1990s when water rates began to rise. However, even with the cost of water increasing in many parts of the country, hotels were often reluctant to make any changes when it came to reducing consumption. The big concern, of course, was that if steps were taken, guest satisfaction could suffer. Even the policy of changing linens every second or third day for guests staying multiple nights took a while to catch on. Most hotel administrators let other hotels test the waters first, so to speak, before accepting this policy.

So, one of the first drivers for embracing water efficiency and reducing water consumption is the cost of the water itself. And remember, we pay for water twice: once when it is delivered to the hotel property and again when it is taken away for treatment. Both charges are now tacked on to hotel water bills.

A second reason is the need to reduce costs by decreasing operating expenses through more efficient water use. A few years back, McGraw-Hill Construction estimated that by implementing water-efficient measures, commercial buildings could decrease operating costs by as much as 11 percent. To do this, many hotels with on-site laundry operations—which can account for more than 16 percent of a hotel’s water consumption—installed more water efficient washers and turned to cold water laundry washing detergents. These detergents were designed to clean effectively but use less water.  Further, because heated water was not necessary, this also helped reduce energy consumption significantly.

Water Regulations & Restrictions

A third reason for the arrival of the water efficiency era is water regulations and restrictions. These have been implemented in many parts of the country, but most specifically in the Southwest and California. Mandates were enacted that required both consumers and commercial property customers to reduce consumption by specific amounts.

While we could view these as regional mandates because they were first instituted in certain areas of the country, they had a distinct benefit for water efficiency nationwide. Because California is the fifth largest economy in the world, manufacturers of all types of water-using systems found it more economical to have their products across the board meet the state’s water-restriction standards. Producing two types of systems—one for California and the other for everyone else—was just cost prohibitive.

Lastly, people’s attitudes toward water efficiency have changed. After the first oil crisis in the early 1970s, Walter Cronkite, the newscaster who was then viewed as “the most trusted man in America,” traveled to Scandinavia. Cronkite’s reports on how buildings were constructed in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden to reduce energy consumption introduced America to the idea that similar steps were possible here, and the country believed him. This is one reason that from that time forward, buildings in the United States began to be constructed with energy savings in mind. We had recognized new possibilities.

While news delivery has changed, the fact that America must reduce water consumption is now realized and accepted as fact. Beyond that, Generation Xers and Millennials expect it. People in these age groups are becoming the primary travelers in the United States and around the world. To win their business, water-reducing strategies such as the installation of waterless urinals and other hotel water efficiency measures can no longer stay in the testing phase. These travelers expect to see them in the hotel properties they stay in.

About the Author

A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt, is the founder and managing partner of Waterless Co. Inc., Vista, Calif. Reichardt founded the company in 1991 with the goal to establish a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water efficiency in mind. The company’s principal product, the waterless urinal, works entirely without water.

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