Recent increases in City of Houston utility costs have made water conservation management a potentially substantial financial benefit to property apartment managers. Water conservation is the maximization of processes, habits, and equipment to minimize water usage, thereby minimizing water cost. As city fresh water coming in is also waste water going out, sewer usage and costs are also minimized by water conservation programs.
For property management, water conservation results in the controlling and minimizing of what is typically a top five property management operating expense. A properly installed and managed apartment water conservation system greatly increases property value to apartment owners and managers through freeing up of cash once committed to utility expenditures and maintenance efficiencies.
Habits: Changing the usage habits of both the end user of water, the resident, as well as the management team of an apartment property can be challenging. Any water conservation effort that needs cooperation from a resident to be successful is inherently doomed for failure. In my experience, asking a resident to change their water usage habits, whether they be for clothes and dish washing, bathroom and shower usage, etc, successful reduction in water consumption is not going to happen from these efforts. However, a management effort encouraging residents to be more proactive in reporting drips and leaks is a good start.
Equipment: Every property is unique in terms of what sort of plumbing fixtures and water use equipment are found in their homes. Any conservation effort needs to be specifically tailored for that property utilizing the best repair and replacement equipment to suit that particular property. It would be easy to type out a laundry list of equipment needed but what equipment is best suited for one property might not be the answer for another property. I tell my clients that each property has its own ‘story’ to be told in terms of water consumption and costs, additionally each property has unique challenges to curtail water consumption. Toilet replacement, toilet retrofit, toilet rebuilds all can be part of a solution but each one has its unique advantages and pitfalls. Shower heads, aerators, washing machines, and irrigation systems can all be part of the solution. No one piece of equipment or one effort is going to be the magic bullet. I find that significant reductions in consumption and water costs only come from casting a wide net over a property and addressing most all of the water usages that are occurring. Both upgrading existing fixtures for the sake of livable water conservation as well as fixing and repairing any points of water use not functioning as intended garner the best results. It’s the collective effort of repairing AND replacing equipment that can achieve significant results.
Monitoring: As we’ve discussed above, every apartment property is unique with its own ‘story’ of water consumption and costs. While a new construction property might forecast out its intended and targeted water consumption with calculated accuracy, an existing property, however, typically budgets its water consumption and costs based upon historical performance and deviates from there based upon verifiable fluctuations such as occupancy. To monitor the success of a program, the goal is to be better today than you were yesterday. At Southwest Utility Solutions we model each property’s consumption and costs in a way that lets us drill down through variables like unit quantity and unit types, as well as occupancy fluctuations, population density and demographics, property plumbing and efficiencies to get to baseline consumptions and conservation expectations. One of the unique challenges of a water conservation program is keeping its success in place long term. Water conservation is a long term effort and often property managers are frustrated with eroding savings and feel as though 12 months post conservation effort, they are back to where they started. Establishing benchmarks for progress and putting in place a management plan when benchmarks aren’t met are vital to maintaining the continued success of a water conservation program.
Water conservation programs can and do work and every property has its own potential for savings. With the realities of limited capital resources, identifying, quantifying, and acting upon that potential is critical but the financial, managerial, and environmental rewards for doing so can be significant.