Less than 3% of the water on Earth is available for human consumption, and many parts of the U.S. already experience seasonal water shortages that endanger human welfare. The average food service facility uses 300,000 gallons of water per year, and the water usage of a single restaurant appliance can be greater than all of the appliances in a residential home combined. Pumping and treating water also requires significant amounts of energy, therefore saving water doesn’t just benefit our water supply; it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The following water efficiency discussion focuses on six pieces of equipment: spray valves, faucet aerators/flow-restrictors, faucets, toilets, urinals, and dish machines.
Top 5 Steps a Food Service Facility Can Take to Increase Water Conservation
Replace prerinse spray valves with models that use less than 1 gallon of water per minute (gpm). This can save enough water each year to fill 5 backyard swimming pools
Install low flow faucet aerators. For prep sinks, we recommend aerators that restrict flow to 1.5 gpm and that can go down as far as 0.5gpm for hand sinks (including restrooms). Do not install low flow aerators on any fill sinks (i.e. mop sinks)
When replacing equipment that uses water – such as ice machines, dish machines, steamers, and combination ovens – look for products that meet Energy Star or Consortium for Energy Efficiency standards. They may cost more than conventional equipment, but you will experience a payback in as little as one year.
For full service restaurants, serve water upon request only. Use your menu or table tents to explain this policy to your guests so they understand that you have made this decision.
Retrofit existing toilets with dual-flush handles, which give the option of using a lower flush rate for liquid waste than solid waste. It’s important to include signage so customers understand how to use these handles correctly.
Low-Flow Spray Valve
Standard: Low flow pre-rinse spray valves can make your sinks’ flow rate more efficient than conventional pre-rinse units, so be sure to request these low flow models whenever you have your pre-rinse units replaced.
Replacing your conventional spray valve, which uses anywhere between 2 and 6 gallons of water per minute, with a valve that uses between 0.65 and 1.28 gallons of water per minute can save up to 50,000 gallons of water a year – the equivalent of 5 backyard swimming pools! Saving hot water will also help you save energy on water heating. In total you can save more than $1,000 a year in water and energy bills, versus conventional spray valves.
Aerators or Flow Restrictors
Standard: GRA-recommended low-flow faucet aerators or faucet flow-restrictors use only 0.5 gallons per minute for hand-washing sinks and 1.5 gallon per minute in kitchen prep sinks, without sacrificing pressure and comfort. These controls are approximately 75% more efficient than conventional faucets flows. By reducing warm water flows they also reduce energy consumption for water heating.
BMP: Turn off faucets when not in use. Instead use foot triggers or simply be mindful of running water when you step away from the faucet. Use incentives to encourage employees to turn off running water when not in use.
Solar or Hydro-Powered Sensor Faucets
Standard: Touchless sensor faucets cut water use by preventing patrons from accidentally leaving the water running and by shutting off the water flow while customers are soaping their hands. Solar faucets are powered by light from the lamps in the bathroom and hydro faucets are powered by the flow of water through the system. These faucets are also 75% more efficient than conventional faucets at 0.5 gallons per minute, and do not require aerators or flow restrictors. Since they are powered by the lights in your bathroom or kitchen, solar faucets do not require additional electricity.
Standard: Pressure-assisted toilets use less than 1 gallon of water per flush (gpf) for both solid and liquid wastes. This is nearly 38% more efficient than the current federal standard of 1.6 gpf for new toilets. By switching from an older (pre-1994) toilet to one with pressure-assisted technology, you can save between $500 and $1200 in water costs per toilet over ten years. Pressure-assisted toilets can be purchased in a wide variety of toilet models from Kohler, Capezzi, American Standard, Gerber, and Mansfield.
Standard: Waterless urinals use a slick surface and a layer of alcohol to trap odorous liquids, eliminating the need to flush them down the drain with water. Waterless urinals can reduce a restaurant’s water consumption by 40,000 gallons annually, and will pay for themselves in less than two years.
Standard: Select under-counter dish machines that meet Energy Star’s standards. Most of these models are available in heat-sanitizing and chemical sanitizing (low-temp) options.
BMP: Run dishwashers only when full.
Heat-sanitizing dishwashers are considered more environmentally friendly since they require substantially less detergent and rinse aid and because the wash water is reused from load to load. Heat-sanitizing machines also do a better job of cleaning and the dishes dry faster since the hotter water evaporates more quickly.
If your dishwasher has an internal tank heater, turn it off at night.
If you have a conveyor-style dishwasher, make sure you’re using it in auto mode, which runs the conveyor motor only when needed.
The dishwasher is one of the biggest energy users in the kitchen so fill each rack to capacity with each load.
Do not over-dry dishes. Adjust power dryers to deliver heated air just long enough to dry dishes.
Schedule regular rinse-water checks to ensure that boosters generate the minimum required temperature.
Regularly remove hard-water lime deposits from spray nozzles, tanks and heater coils.
Most high-temp dishwashers have built-in burners or elements to keep the water in the tank hot so turn your dishwasher off at night.
Water Upon Request
Standard: Serving water only upon request provides a great method for conserving water, working to reduce the 410 billion gallons of ground and surface water withdrawn by the U.S. every day. In the U.S., an estimated 70 million meals are served in restaurants each day. If one-quarter of the customers declined water service, 26 million gallons of fresh water would be saved every day.
Standard: Using native and drought tolerant plants in your landscaping plans will keep outdoor watering needs to an absolute minimum. If you do need to water regularly, consider installing a rain barrel or other system to catch rainwater, then use that water for plants and grasses on your property.
BMP’s: If you have landscaping, water efficiently. For example,
a. Water early in the morning
b. Keep grass at least 1” high
c. Turn sprinklers off when it rains
d. Use a weather-based irrigation system
e. Use native plants
Do not use running water to defrost frozen items, defrost them in the fridge.
Regularly check and maintain leaky faucets, toilets, etc. A leaky faucet can waste 10 gallons of water per day and a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day.
Track water usage using a tool such as Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. This will allow you to see how usage changes as you implement water efficiency measures.
Use dry cleaning methods for surfaces, especially outdoors, instead of hosing them down.
Drain and flush hot water tanks every 6 months to prevent build-up that can keep the tanks from operating at full capacity.