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System Impacts

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Financial Impact

Within the federal sector alone, estimates put annual expenditures for water and sewer services between $500 million and $1 billion. Similar estimates predict the government could save as much as $240 million per year through moderate gains in water efficiency and operations.1

For a high-level overview, watch DOE Better Buildings' The Business Case for High-Performance Buildings.

1. Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG): Water Conservation

Water and energy go hand-in-hand in a relationship often referred to as the "water-energy nexus." Financial cost savings are achieved through not only the reduction of utility potable water purchases and wastewater treatment costs but also the energy costs to transport, treat and heat the associated water. Strategies that lessen the demand for heated water, such as limiting dishwasher cycles or installing high efficiency shower heads, further limit the associated energy to heat water. Reductions in water consumption might additionally allow for the smaller, less-expensive pipes, fittings, and pumps. While utilizing reclaimed water sources have a cost premium of up to 15 percent of the total plumbing system1 (additional separate piping and storage units), they can be cost-effective when weighing the water, energy, and wastewater cost savings.

1. Alliance for Water Efficiency

An educational campaign stressing the importance and best practices of water conservation can quickly pay for itself. Employees should be encouraged to limit their potable water use when in the kitchen and bathroom building spaces (see human impact). Similarly, establishing a reporting mechanism for occupants to give feedback and report leaks or malfunctions is a cost-effective alternative to achieving a sustainable water system.

On average, 28% of commercial office building water use is associated with heating and cooling. Implementing performance improvements to these systems can lead to significant cost savings. Within the office facility, leaks and corrosion can lead to expensive and time-consuming structural damage as well as an increase in water utility costs. Beyond the building envelope, xeriscaping can save on more than just water costs, and include maintenance labor, fertilizer, and pruning costs. Metering provides the opportunity to have greater predictability for future water and sewer costs and reduce vulnerability to price volatility. Perform an economic analysis to know the total cost per unit of water used to determine savings realized by conservation actions.

Findings and Case Studies

Finding: Plumbing fixture replacements yield a saving of over 25 million gallons or $271,000 annually, providing a payback of only three years.
Scope: U.S. Department of Energy Y-12 National Security Complex over 7-year period – BMP1: Water Management PlanningSee: https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/articles/energy-savings-being-realized-millions-y-12-national-security-complex

Finding: Through water conservation measures water use was reduced more than 50 percent.
Scope: U.S. Army Fort Huachuca: BMP 2: Information and Education ProgramsSource: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/46728.pdf

Finding: Saved 179 million gallons each year, valued at $330,000 annually provided a 1.75 percent payback per year.
Scope: Kirtland Air Force Base: BMP 3 – Distribution System Audits, Leak Detection, and RepairSource: https://permanent.fdlp.gov/gpo60120/water_cs_kirtland.pdf

Finding: $30,000 in reduced wastewater fees from reclaiming cooling pond water.
Scope: Pacific Northwest National Lab: BMP 4/5Source: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/46336.pdf

Finding: Reduced plumbing fixture water use by thirty percent.
Scope: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center – BMP 6Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/10/f3/nasa-msfc_watercs2_.pdf

Finding: Saved 1,538,000 gallon of water each year with only a project cost of $3,500, resulting in annual savings of $12,900 and a payback period of less than 2 months.

Finding: Saved 19,574 Kgal of water and 1,109,888 MBtu of energy for savings of about three million dollars in FY11.
Scope: Naval Air Station Oceana – Boiler Upgrades and Decentralizing Steam Systems – BMP 8Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/10/f3/oceana_water_cs.pdf

Finding: Reduced water/sewer bill by $5,650 and electric bill by $27,399.
Scope: NASA Marshall Flight Center – BMP 10Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/10/f3/nasa-msfc_watercs2_.pdf

Finding: 5.4% reduction in water consumption and 70 billion reduction in Btu, equaling $2.7 million in savings.
Scope: DoD Exchange Facilities – BMP 11Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/10/f3/dodexchange_watercs.pdf

Finding: Between $2,000 and $9,200 in annual savings of water and sewer costs.
Scope: Various EPA Sites – BMP 12Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/10/f3/epa_watercspdf.pdf

Finding: 18% reduction in total potable water consumption, resulting in $160,000 savings annually.
Scope: Sandia National Laboratories – BMP 13Source: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/46334.pdf

Finding: 16% reduction in water use, or $35,000 through use of an air handler condensate recovery system.
Scope: EPA Science and Ecosystem Support Division – BMP 14Source: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/46334.pdf

Finding: Saving $682,000 annually by offsetting over 303 million gallons with water reclamation and reuse.
Scope: U.S. Army Fort Carson – BMP 14Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/10/f3/epa-scesd_watercs.pdf

Did You Know?

Within the federal sector, expenditures for water run between $0.5 billion and $1 billion.Source: Whole Building Design Guide

Moderate conservation measures could save the government over 40% on water and sewage utility costs.

Source: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy02osti/31303.pdf

Federal facilities use sixty billion Btu of energy annually to process, heat, and distribute water throughout the building. Source: WBDG - Water Conservation