New Year’s Goals: Conserving Water in Commercial Buildings and Your Home

Dec 18, 2020

This year, Nexant began publicly stating CO2 reduction goals to demonstrate our commitment to decreasing our impact on the environment. We built a progressive CO2 emissions reduction structure that is designed to reflect rapid worldwide changes, particularly those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The management of energy, water, and other resources is in a pivotal moment in history. We believe we have an opportunity to empower sustainable activities as a business and as individuals. This belief is infused in our relationships with employees, clients, our supply chain, and the environment. Our Sustainability Committee is writing to educate, remind, and refocus our efforts to conserve water. 

Energy and water are connected---and I’m not talking about in a vague mother-earth sense. It takes energy to use water and often water is consumed to create energy. Wastewater treatment, pumping water, transport/distribution of water, and cooling with water all have energy costs. Water is also used in the energy industry to extract oil, run hydropower dams, create solar panels, keep power plants cool, etc. When water infrastructure fails or severe weather creates disruptions, it can be a huge problem for many industries and communities. The Department of Energy anticipates that climate change is likely to worsen these effects. 

It may seem like we have a lot of water on our planet, but the percentage of water we can actually use (without requiring tons of energy and effort) is quite small. According to the USGS, about 68% of freshwater is unavailable in icecaps, glaciers, and snow. Another 30% is unavailable underground freshwater. Only 1.2% of freshwater is available on the surface in rivers and lakes, which is how most humans access water. That small percentage is further affected by pollution and other local conditions.  

Here’s where you come in. The list below has some common ways to conserve water and keep it clean. You’ll probably recognize some of them (many seem like common sense at this point!), but I hope you’ll learn something new. We’ll start with Commercial Building Tips and follow with Residential Tips. Last, we'll have some reminders on preventing water pollution.

Commercial Building Water Conservation Tips


  • Propose a water savings plan with regular meetings to check on data and progress. You can see what programs your water utility might be offering that can help. 
  • Install a water management system that measures consumption data. This can help establish benchmarks, or reveal the areas of highest use. 
  • Educate tenants and users, making them more aware of the ways they use water and the connections between water and energy. 
  • Regulate your water pressure by asking your technician to measure it (and potentially install pressure-reducing valves). Ideally it should be 65-80 psi. 
  • Recycle as much as possible. It reduces plastic pollution as well as water pollution from mining and drilling. Producing new plastic also requires much more water than recycling existing plastic.
  • Get involved: Your local utility may have water savings goals or if not, could use proactive input from the community.

Heating & Cooling:

  • Investigate how you can reduce water usage from cooling towers. 
  • Use updated building control equipment to reduce the need for steam boiler blowdown, which can cause water loss. 
  • Insulate piping so hot water arrives more quickly, reducing the need to let water run in order to get hot water. 
  • Alternative to the above, consider upgrading to a recirculating hot water system, which delivers instant hot water. 


  • Replace high volume toilets with newer versions that have smaller tanks.
  • Low-flow shower heads and low-flow aerators in sinks
  • Investigate if grey water systems would work in your building(s).
  • Fix leaky faucets and toilets. Investigate using metering or submetering data to detect leaks that may be hard to find. 
  • Change flush valves on toilets, which can save 20-70% of water per flush.
  • Investigate water free or 1-pint urinals, which can eliminate water usage or reduce by 85%. 


  • Install rain sensors or smart controllers on irrigation systems. Some smart controllers (one example here) can assess weather predictions and turn off sprinklers based on forecasts. 
  • Conduct an inspection of irrigation systems on a regular basis to look for areas that can be more efficient. This would include adjusting or replacing nozzles to put the right amount of water in the right place and minimizing spray. 
  • Submeter irrigation systems to better monitor water savings and potentially save on your sewer bill
  • Investigate if rainwater harvesting would work in your building(s).
  • When landscaping, avoid plants and annuals that require lots of watering. Native plants adapted to local conditions will require less water. 


  • Use pool and spa covers during unoccupied times. Approximately 70% of heat loss and the majority of water loss comes from evaporation.  Pool covers can reduce evaporation by 95% or more saving water and energy during unoccupied hours.
  • Ensure that any spa jets are set to turn off after 15 minutes. Hot water agitated by jets is a recipe for increased evaporation.
  • Fix leaks and keep the concrete and/or pool liner in good repair. In some cases, this will save 1000s of gallons a day.
  • Modern chemical controllers can help maintain proper water chemistry, reducing the amount of water that must be drained and replaced in the event of improper dosing.
  • On commercial pools, consider upgrading to regenerative filtration.  Compared to sand filters, regenerative filtration can reduce water loss by 90%. Regenerative filters also reduce labor time with automated backwash cycles and save on makeup water heating and treatment costs.

Residential Water Use Tips


  • Regulate your water pressure by asking your contractor/technician to measure it (and potentially install a pressure-reducing valve). Ideally it should be 65-80 psi. 
  • Insulate piping so hot water arrives more quickly, reducing the need to let water run in order to get hot water. 
  • Buy fewer things, or more recycled things. The more products you buy, the more water (and energy) is required to produce, transport, and distribute those goods.
  • Recycle paper and buy recycled paper products. 
  • Get involved: Your local utility may have water savings goals or if not, could use proactive input from the community.


  • Install low-flow shower heads and low-flow aerators in sinks
  • Use a showerhead that turns to a trickle once the water is hot. Or, put a bucket in the shower while you’re waiting for the water to warm up and use that water for plants or cleaning. 
  • Turn off water in the sink when shaving or brushing your teeth.
  • Fix leaky faucets and toilets ASAP.
  • Replace high volume toilets with newer versions that have smaller tanks. Or, add a sealed plastic bottle filled with water to the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water flushed each time. 


  • Use a front loading ENERGY STAR® certified washing machine. (Usually uses half as much water as older top loading machines).
  • Try not to wash all clothes after one use. (Underwear and gym clothes, yes. Generally, sweaters, pajamas, and jeans, would be no.)
  • Run your washing machine only when there is a full load. 


  • Use the dishwasher instead of handwashing. ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers can save 5,000 gallons of water per year compared to handwashing!
  • Buy only ENERGY STAR certified appliances (dishwasher, washing machine).
  • Eat less meat and dairy. (They require a lot of water to produce).
  • Eat grass-fed meat. (It takes more water to grow grain for animal feed).
  • Eat less processed foods, which require more water to produce. 
  • Don’t thaw frozen food in water. Put it in the refrigerator to thaw over a day or two. 


  • Install rain barrels to capture water that runs off your roof. It can be used to water lawns or gardens. 
  • To reduce outdoor watering, invest in a landscape of plants that do not need additional water and are adapted to local conditions.
  • If you must water your lawn or outdoor plants, do it in early morning or late evening to reduce water loss from evaporation. 
  • Use a drip irrigation system to water your garden. 
  • Drip irrigation and sprinkler systems should be on a timer so they are automatically shut off, reducing the chances of human error.
  • Cover pools when possible to prevent loss from evaporation (can be hundreds of gallons per month). 
  • Wash cars less frequently. 

Preventing Water Pollution

  • Pick up litter and recycle as much as possible.
  • Never dump oils, fats, cleaning agents, or chemicals into a home drain or a storm drain. Research proper disposal of other liquids. 
  • Do not flush pills down the toilet. The drugs can end up affecting animals and plants in our waterways. 
  • Do not put any unnecessary trash in the toilet. 
  • Minimize or eliminate use of herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides. 
  • Minimize use of detergents or bleach. Use phosphate free soaps. 
  • Avoid pork. Pig waste from pig farms is a major cause of water pollution. 
  • Avoid buying individually bottled water because the plastic can be a pollutant after use. Use reusable water bottles instead. 


Have more tips to share? Let us know on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook!  



Nexant experts Jacob James and Evan Foster

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