Water consumption in food service
Why economical use of this scarce resource is beneficial on two counts
The availability of drinking water and other useful water is decreasing on a global scale and the challenges presented by this reach further than simple ecology. The ever rising water price is increasingly affecting the economic activity of domestic, commercial and industrial consumers. In the second part of our water series, you can read about how to save water in hotel and food service businesses, protecting both the environment and your bottom line.
After all, the hotel and hospitality industry in Europe and the rest of the world can protect the environment by using valuable water resources more sustainably. Reduced total water consumption will also reduce operating costs.
In our article, ‘Water as a resource: why we should be mindful about how to handle this vital substance’, we already looked at the extent to which increasing water scarcity in many countries is also a global environmental challenge. Water prices are increasing around the world, increasing motivation to take action by adding an economic imperative. We will therefore now provide some advice on how to save water in the food service industry.
Firstly, let's look at some facts: according to data published in the UN's 2018 World Water Development Report (‘Nature-based Solutions for Water’), water consumption has been increasing by about 1 % per year in recent decades. This has been driven primarily by high demand in agriculture, industry and public water supply, and the UN expects this demand to continue to grow. Consumption distribution differs by country/level of development and economic focus.
In Europe, for example, two thirds of available water is used in industry and agriculture, whereas in the USA, agricultural irrigation accounts for 80 %. In many parts of the world, domestic use is only responsible for a relatively small proportion of consumption. Even public institutions such as hospitals, care homes, universities, schools and nursery schools, as well as businesses like hotels, restaurants and the growing communal catering sector all seem small in direct comparison. They should still save water, though.
For environmental and financial reasons, this valuable resource should be used carefully in this sector, too. Per overnight stay, luxury hotels use several times standard domestic consumption per capita (source: DEHOGA). Tour operator Thomas Cook and sustainability initiative Futouris launched the ‘Valuable water’ project in 2014 and worked out that water consumption in hotels can be reduced by 20–50 %. With some hotels already saving almost half of their previous water consumption, it is clear that there is huge potential for saving water throughout the sector.
Reducing water consumption in hotels by 20–50 %
One thing is clear: energy and water consumption are key cost factors everywhere in the world. The price is being driven up by water scarcity and the rising cost of processing and purifying waste water. For all of these reasons, the food service sector needs to find a way to deal with water in an environmentally sustainable and cost efficient manner. There are many ways to do this, so here are a few.
1. Calculate your water consumption
If you want to improve something, you need reliable starting figures. Before you start tightening your belt in every possible area, you should calculate and evaluate your current water consumption – and get in an appropriate expert if you need to. After all, you can only set goals and adapt or optimise when you have a way of measuring success or failure. And you need to take it step by step, so be patient!
2. Train employees and educate guests
Saving water is a team sport. You should therefore raise awareness among your employees and deliberately train them. It also makes sense to subtly inform guests of potential new practices and to encourage them to save water in the bathroom – and that will contribute to positive PR, too.
3. Use modern technology
Choose commercial dishwashers rather than domestic appliances as they usually use less than half as much water. If you are washing regularly, the potential to make savings is huge.
Toilets with an economy flush, urinals with photoelectric sensors and waterless urinals are very environmentally friendly and save money. You can also use perlators (aerators) to reduce water flow to sinks, hand wash basins and showers. Equipping wash basins with electronic taps or foot switches also uses less water. Every little helps.
4. Repair leaks
Dripping taps, faulty seals, and leaking appliances, pipes or sinks … if you just let all this continue, you are at risk of losing unnecesarily large volumes of water – and you will pay for it in the end, since several hundred litres of water can quickly add up over the course of a year. So: if you invest and repair issues quickly, you will save in the long term.
5. Collect rainwater and use grey water
Plants, trees and gardens do not need to be tended or watered using the mains water supply. Rain water collected in water butts and tanks is perfectly good for this purpose.
With the right infrastructure, you can even flush toilets with this water. Part of your strategy could even include a grey water recycling system. Grey water is minimally contaminated waste water which can be processed to make it suitable for cleaning, gardening and toilet flushing.
It makes sense to be mindful in our use of water resources, regardless whether your reasons are environmental or financial. If you would like to find out where else you can save money in your food service or hotel business, take a look at our tips and suggestions in our article, ‘How professional glass management helps save time and money.’