Restaurant Water Efficiency

Water is the single most important finite resource on earth. Energy issues for various reasons often overshadow clean drinking water and water use efficiency, but the importance of water conservation should not be overlooked. In fact, water use and energy are directly connected. With foodservice operations, the direct cost of heating water for sanitary uses is obvious, but indirectly energy is also consumed to pump water from treatment facilities to the local area. Excessive amounts of water are also used to cool power plants. According to the EPA WaterSense program, if one percent of American homes replaced older toilets with efficient WaterSense labeled units, the United States would save enough electricity to power more than 40,000 homes for a month. In addition, the program states that it takes 3,000 to 6,000 gallons of water to power a 60-watt incandescent bulb for 12 hours per day over the course of a year. So, by conserving water you conserve energy and by conserving energy you conserve water.

Foodservice operations, in general, do a poor job of water conservation. Water conservation practices along with efficient plumbing fixtures and equipment, many of which are eligible for cash incentives, can save foodservice operations millions of dollars nationwide. Check the Rebate Programs page to find water efficiency rebates in your area.


Fixtures

The EPA's WaterSense program is the main player in water efficiency standards. The program rates and qualifies water efficient plumbing fixtures in the same way its better-known cousin the Energy Star program labels energy efficient equipment. The program currently rates bathroom faucets, aerators, urinals, high-efficiency toilets, showerheads and landscape irrigation services. Most of the rated fixtures are manufactured for the residential industry, but there are water efficient commercial fixtures available and WaterSense is in the process of qualifying commercial products.

Aerators

Between the kitchen, bathrooms and service stations, faucets are the largest end-user of water in foodservice establishments. Luckily, there are simple solutions to excessive water use from faucets. The majority of aerators on the market range between 1.5 and 2.5gpm. WaterSense labels aerators with a maximum flow rate of 1.5gpm. However, there are aerators available that reduce flow to as low at .5gpm. These super efficient aerators are very inexpensive and can save significant amounts of water when used throughout an establishment.

One issue many kitchens struggle with is keeping kitchen staff from removing efficiency aerators from kitchen faucets. They usually do this because the aerators reduce the flow thus increasing the time it takes for them to fill a 5-gallon buckets, pasta pot, etc. One solution is to install a pot filler or add-on faucet to a prep sink faucet so the sink will have two faucets, one for washing vegetables and thawing product, the other for filling buckets. Another solution is locking or tamper-proof aerator that need a special key to remove them.

Pre-wash Spray Valve

Pre-Rinse Spray Valves

Dish sink pre-rinse spray valves are one of the easiest, most cost efficient and effective fixtures an operation can install. The sprayers cost around $50-70 and use between .64 and 1.6gpm, which can save an organization hundreds of dollars a year. Not only are the sprayers very efficient, but they also provide a superior spray over older units that are now off the market due to a federal law mandating 1.6 gpm spray valves. The Food Service Technology Center lists the major manufacturers of pre-rinse sprayers, and provides a calculator that estimates costs savings. The table below provides the FSTC's test results for most major pre-rinse spray valve models.

Brand and Model

Rated (gpm)

Tested (gpm @ 60 psi)

Cleanability per Plate (seconds)

BK Resources: PRV-1

.99

.98

25.28

Bricor: B064 PRV

.64

.65

20.55

Bricor: B084 PRV

.84

.84

19.65

Bricor: B094 PRV

.94

.91

18.71

Bricor: B095NS

.94

.94

22.91

Chicago Faucet: 90-LABCP

1

.92

22

Encore: KN50-Y002-12

1.2

1.18

21.61

Encore: KN50-Y103 & KN50-Y104 (15 Degree Fan Position)

.61

.59

20

Encore: KN50-Y103 & KN50-Y104 (25 Degree Fan Position)

1.2

1.14

15

Encore: KN50-Y103 & KN50-Y104 (Straight Spray)

.7

.71

17

Fisher: Ultra-Spray 2949

1.6 @ 80psi

1.15

22.4

Fisher: 10197 & 13641

.7

.7

24

Krowne Metal: Water Saver 21-129

1.24

1.24

23.84

Niagara: N2180

1.6 @ 80psi

1.28

17

Strahman Kwik-Clean 3: (Straight Spray)

.99

.99

16

Strahman 3: (5 Degree Fan Position)

.98

.92

22

Strahman 3: (15 Degree Fan Position)

.98

.91

24

Strahman Kwik-Clean 3: (Tri Tip Position)

.91

.92

18

Strahman: Kwik-Clean II

1.3

1.16

25.89

T&S: B-0107

1.42

1.4

20.74

T&S: EB-0107-C

.65

.64

21

T&S: B-0107-C

.65

.64

21

T&S: Equip 5SV

1.42

1.41

21.54

T&S: Equip 5SV-C

1.2

1.14

22.59

T&S: JetSpray B-0108

1.48

1.48

20.9

T&S: JetSpray B-0108-C

1.2

1.12

21.34

T&S: B-2108

1.42

1.38

19.61

Zurn: Z80000-PR1

1.6 @ 80psi

1.23

22.78

All results were calculated by the Food Service Technology Center


Toilets / Urinals

High efficiency toilets are available in all current styles: gravity tank (usually used in homes), pressure assist tanks and flush valve models (no tank, used in commercial settings). Modern high-efficiency toilets perform as well as standard units and are no longer associated with the poor quality of older, first generation efficiency toilets. WaterSense currently labels gravity and pressure assist tank units and is in the process of creating flush valve standards. The WaterSense standards for all styles will require a 1.28gpf maximum, but some dual flush units allow a half flush of around .8gpf.

WaterSense rates urinals at a maximum flow of .5gpf, but there are ultra low-flow models available that use as little as .125gpf (1 pint). High efficiency units result in obvious savings over older units that used as much as 3gpf. The low-flow models are easy to upgrade as they use the same plumbing connections as older, less efficient models. Waterless urinals are also available. These fixtures use a lighter than water liquid agent that floats above liquid waste and prevents odor from escaping into the area. The waterless urinals require a little more maintenance, but have been very popular with their users. Facilitiesnet.com published an article on the University of South Maine that installed several brands of waterless urinals. The article covers the challenges and ultimate benefits the university found with using the fixtures.


Equipment

Even though Energy Star certifies energy efficient equipment, three pieces of commercial kitchen equipment labeled by Energy Star also have water efficiency requirements.

Steam Cooker

Steam cookers offer the most significant savings with Energy Star rated units using 90% less water than standard machines. This equates to a nearly $10,000 savings in water costs over the life of the unit.

Energy Star dishwashers include high and low temp options in undercounter machines, single tank door type, single tank conveyor and multiple tank conveyor machines. The qualified machines are on average 25% more water on efficient than standard machines and will save around $200 a year in water costs alone.

The third piece of water efficient Energy Star equipment is ice machines. Energy Star rated machines are air-cooled machines that use 10% less water than standard units. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency also specifies ice machines efficiency levels and classifies high efficiency units as tier 3. Tier 2 units are currently set at the same level as ENERGY STAR, and Tier 3 units have a maximum energy use 15% below CEE Tier 1. The CEE also qualifies water-cooled ice machines connected into a closed-loop water system. Standard once-through ice machines do not qualify and are very inefficient in terms of water use and very expensive to run over the life of the unit. The same holds true for other water-cooled equipment like walk-in refrigeration and soft-serve ice cream machines. Operation of water-cooled equipment can cost as much as four times that of similar air-cooled equipment. The Tools page provides several options for lifecycle cost calculators that determine financial savings of water efficient equipment.

The Food Service Technology Center published an article that covers best practices for water conservation in foodservice operations. The article covers a large variety of equipment including dipper wells, evaporative coolers, waste disposals and scrapper systems.

Water purifiers, bottled water machines

Water purifiers are not any more efficient than without, but they are a nice addition to a sustainable restaurant. Filtered water is a healthier option and can help cut down on use of bottle water. Commercial water filters are readily available in several styles and are virtually maintenance free. Two companies, Natura and Aquahealth, now manufacture water filter machines that also carbonate the filtered water so a restaurant can serve their own sparkling water.


Landscaping

Landscaping can quickly consume a large amount of water if proper techniques are not followed. The single most important item in landscaping is to choose native, water efficient plants. Native plants use less water than non-native plants, look more natural and are more resilient to pests and disease, thus they require little to no pesticides or herbicides to keep them healthy. In addition, replacing grassy areas with native landscaping cuts maintenance costs and water use.

Efficient watering techniques, in the early morning or late evening, help conserve water and keep plants healthy. Watering during midday increases evaporation and can be harmful to some plants. Manual watering is the most efficient method, but may not be practical in a commercial setting. Therefore, drip irrigation systems with timers and rain sensors are the easiest, most effective irrigation system. They require very little maintenance, but do need adjustment seasonally. The WaterSense program also certifies landscape irrigation services nationwide.

Rainwater catchment is a technique that collects, filters and stores rainwater runoff from roofs and parking areas for use in landscaping. The systems are very effective in reducing water costs and help reduce runoff into municipal stormwater drains. Products like porous pavement also divert water from stormwater systems and help filter the water before returning to the ground water or a collection tank.

Finally, organic gardening techniques are an practical, cost effective and more environmentally friendly choice. Planting native species makes organic gardening much easier because the plants evolved in that particular climate and do not need the water, maintenance or pesticides that non-natives species do. Organic fertilizers are cheap (sometimes free), abundant and as effective if not more effective than synthetic fertilizers. More information on organic landscaping techniques is available on many sites on the web.

The WaterSense program lists several articles that go into more detail on water efficient landscaping, maintenance and irrigation controls.


Practices and Policies

Simple, effective practices are the cornerstone to sustainability and water conservation. Integrating water efficiency into employee training and company policies set a tone that the organization is committed to sustainability and conservation. Most water conservation practices require simple, low or no cost changes by staff and management that quickly integrate into employee's daily routines. There are literally hundreds of ways to save water in foodservice operations. A few are listed here:

  1. Defrost meats in refrigerators rather than under running water. If you must use running water, keep the water flow to a minimum rate that circulates the water. The faucet (using an efficient aerator) does not need to be fully on.
  2. Keep lids on boiling water during slow times
  3. Keep pasta cookers at a simmer rather than a rolling boiling
  4. Use dry cleaning techniques (broom and mop) rather than spraying water to clean floors or use a waterbroom instead of a hose
  5. Do not use running water to melt ice. Put the ice in the mop sink or dish sink where it will melt during regular use.
  6. Get a water audit from your water utility
  7. Implement proper fat, oil and grease handling best practices
  8. Serve water to guests only on request

Additional Water Conservation Resources

AcornVac Vacuum Plumbing Systems
www.acornvac.com/download/Estimated%20Water%20Savings-Restaurant.pdf
Simple formula for calculating annual water use from commercial toilets

Alliance for Water Efficiency
www.allianceforwaterefficiency.org/
They have a number of pages dedicated to water efficiency in foodservice and with foodservice equipment.

Green Plumbers Association
www.greenplumbersusa.com/
National training and accreditation program. Lists certified green plumbers and products.

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