Tourism Northern Ireland

Tourism NI – Leaner and Greener Water Conservation Webinar (24 January 2023) | Key Points

INTRODUCTION

Tourism NI held their ‘Leaner and Greener `Water Conservation’’ webinar on Tuesday 24th January 2023. It was presented by Tina O’Dwyer, The Tourism Space with Aine Martin, Doolin Hotel explaining their experiences also. A recording of the webinar, workshop resources, including a Guide Book and a Workbook to download the relevant spreadsheets, can be accessed at www.tourismni.com/leanergreener.

STRUCTURE

The webinar explored the reasons why water conservation is important for businesses by exploring how much and where water is used, what actions can be taken to save water (and money) and how to develop an action plan to reduce use. 

Only when you measure and monitor can you truly manage water and save money. Conserving water reduces costs and saves money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, makes a business more resilient and may boost business brand and reputation.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • About 71% of the earth’s surface is made up of water.
  • 97.5% of all that water is salt water.
  • The remaining 2.5% – majority is permanently frozen or unavailable for use.
  • Only 1% of earth’s water is available for our use.
  • There was a 600% increase in global demand for water over the last 100 years.
  • A growth in demand of 50% globally is anticipated up to 2030.
  • Brushing your teeth with the tap running can use 6 litres of water per minute.
  • Around 30% of water in an average NI household is used to flush the toilet.
  • A bath uses 80 litres of water. In 5 minutes a standard shower uses 35 litres of water and a power shower uses 90 litres of water.
  • Typical business premises on average uses 50 litres of water per person per day.
  • Water use in typical business premises – toilet flushing 43%, urinal flushing 20%, washing 27%, cleaning 1% and canteen use 9%.

THE 8 STEPS TO SAVING WATER ARE:

1. Appoint a Green Team or Green Champion. 

  • It is important to firstly find the necessary data and then use that data to calculate where savings can be made and identify any action needed. 
  • Four reference points are needed – water bill, water meter, sub-meters and water flow rate. 

Up to date data is important so a Green Team or Green Champion should be appointed to input and monitor the data using Worksheet 1.

2. Calculate Annual Units and Cost (Worksheet 1)

  • The amount of water used in your business right now is the baseline and this can be found by establishing your annual figures for 2022.
  • The Consumer Council NI offer a free water bill health check which provides you with a simple breakdown and explanation of your water bill. This is to make sure you are being billed correctly and helps identify opportunities to save money on your water bills. If appropriate they will also provide some water efficiency advice. 
  • Suggested actions:
    • Ensure you are receiving a metered bill
    • Get familiar with all the information on your bill
    • Apply for Water Bill Health 
    • Check through the Consumer Council and record all 2022 figures (cubic metres of water and cost per cubic member) in Worksheet 1.

3. Establish your benchmark

  • Benchmarking relates to water usage to your business specifically and allows you to track your own performance over time.
  • Benchmarking allows you to compare your performance against others in the industry and identify any seasonal fluctuations etc. 
  • Benchmark examples – 95 litres per guest, 45 litres per square metre, 110 litres per cover.

4. Monitor Monthly Units and Costs

  • NI Water aims to read the meter at least twice a year.
  • They guarantee that one bill per year is based on a meter reading so the rest of the bill may be estimated and you may not see it until later. 
  • It is therefore important to read your meter regularly as the information is more timely, more accurate and allows you to monitor patterns over different months, weeks and even days.  If not, there may be leaks or unexplained changes in usage which may not be recognised until a water bill is read and there could be extensive water wastage by then.
  • Metered customers usually receive a bill every 6 months.
  • Sub-meters are useful for larger businesses or where certain departments use large amounts of water. eg swimming pool areas.
  • Worksheet 1 should be used to record data from your own monthly meter bills and the data from the water bill. The same method could be used for energy and fuel bills.

5. Measure Flow Rates

  • Water flow rate is the speed water flows out of a tap, shower or toilet in litres per minute.
  • Once you have a good sense of how much water is being used to run your business, you can establish where and how the water is being used:
    • Count water-using fixtures and appliances inside and out.
    • Identify associated water flows.
  • Examples of a good flow rate:
    • Kitchen taps – 6-8 litres per minute
    • Public and restroom taps – 2-4 litres per minute
    • Showers – 6-8 litres per minute
    • Toilets – 4-6 litres per flush based on dual flush toilet
  • To calculate flow rate of taps and showers:
    • Open tap or shower at full force
    • Let it run for 10 seconds into a large bucket
    • Measure how much water is in the bucket
    • Multiply by 6 to get the litres used per minute
  • When comparing flow rates, use the following equation:

Annual consumption = number of litres per minute x number of minutes in use per day x number of days in use in the year 

  • For example:
    • My bathroom tap = 6 (litres per minute) x 120 (minutes per day) x 363 (days in use per year) = 261,360 litres per year.
    • Optimal bathroom tap = 3 (litres per minute) x 120 (minutes per day) x 363 (days in use per year) = 130,680 litres per year.
  • Once the flow rate is calculated, it can be compared with best practice and you can work out how much it would cost to change the tap and identify if it is worthwhile to change.

6. Do a Walkaround Water Audit

  • Conduct a water audit by actually walking around your business to observe, notice and see where improvements can be made. 

Use the Walk Around Water Audit Template  (worksheet 2) to record your findings in the ladies toilet, mens toilet, kitchen wash up, kitchen dishwasher, bedroom showers, bedroom toilets, garden etc.

7. Analyse data and prioritise action

  • Your 2 sets of data, Flow Rate Analysis and Walkaround Audit, will give you a clear picture of your water use profile and will highlight priority action areas.
  • Analyse the outcomes of your audit – priority areas will jump out in most cases:
    • What jumps out as a priority area for attention?
    • Share outcomes with your team or mentor
    • Brainstorm solutions
    • Broadly estimate costs and resources required
  • First take the actions with the lowest cost and highest impact.

8. Create your Water Saving Action Plan

  • It is important to take the time to get your starting point information and baseline data and audit/investigation to get the priority areas. 
  • Action can be taken over 2-3 years, it does not have to be immediate.
  • An action plan is essential if you want to apply for Green certification as you need the data to be demonstrated on paper. It is also needed to apply for awards and recognition to prove what you have done.  An action plan also motivates and engages staff and builds momentum on the leaner and greener journey.

Complete the Water Savings Action Plan (worksheet 3) with actions, responsibility, deadline and notes. It is only an action plan if it is clear who has to take the action and when that action has to be taken by.

EXPERIENCES FROM HOTEL DOOLIN – Ireland’s first certified carbon neutral hotel, Aine Martin 

Hotel Doolin is a 17 bedroomed hotel with 9 holiday homes. It is an eco wedding venue, holding 300 guests, hosting 130 weddings per year (most being 2 day events). 120 employees work within Glas Restaurant, Fitz’s Pub and Snug Bar, the Attic Music Venue, Stonewall Care and Pizzeria and the hotel and holiday home accommodation. 

Incentives to setting up a Green Team.

  • Reduce carbon footprint
  • Improve involvement within your community and within your region.
  • Increase corporate social responsibility activities and purchase locally.

Training staff at induction and regular training sessions 

  • Follow the rules of the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and the 3 P’s (People, Planet, Profit).
  • Every employee receives a full induction day where the Green Hospitality efforts and policies are clearly explained.
  • The manager on duty AM and PM shifts is responsible for ensuring water saving measures are being carried out in all areas and spot checks are done.
  • They see who is environmentally interested and invite them to join their Green Team which is divided into sub teams for water, energy, waste and green purchasing/corporate social responsibility.

How Dooley Hotel achieved a carbon neutral certification

  • They worked with the Green Hospitality Programme.
  • Certification included several visits, creating a 5 year energy efficiency plan and finally being assessed and awarded the Carbon Neutral12 GreenMark certification. 

Water Consumption

  • Primary reasons for reducing water consumption are cost and environmental impact.
  • Aim is to reduce water consumption per guest as that is the most effective way to monitor water usage. In 2019 it was calculated at 23 litres per guest, reducing to 18 litres per guest in 2021.
  • Changing behaviour is paramount and the key is to get the staff team involved. 
  • The number of wedding events increased from 20 to 120 because of being green.

Dooley Hotel steps to reduce water consumption:

  1. Establishing Baseline
  • Read the water meter at the same time every day – suggest morning time as it can be the first job of the day and record in a book, day by day, month by month.
  • To calculate the total usage, you deduct the last day of the month from the first day of the month – water is measured in cubic metres.
  1. Set a Target for reduction
  • Once a baseline is established, the next step is to tackle reducing water consumption and setting the target reduction for your business.
  • Allocate responsibility to relevant departments eg Maintenance Manager, Executive Chef.
  1. Shower and Tap Aerators
  • Replacing your shower head and tap aerators with new, water saving ones will bring you a return on investment after a few months of use.
  • They also reduce energy usage as less water is required to be heated.
  • Reductions of up to 44% can be achieved without affecting guest comfort.
  1. Hippo Bags in Toilet Cisterns
  • Hippo Bags are a simple, proven and low cost water saving device to help conserve water in toilet cisterns. 
  • Every time a toilet is flushed the Hippo saves approximately 3 litres of water and payback is 8-12 weeks at £5.68 for 2 bags.
  1. Harvesting Rainwater
  • 6500 litre tank in the garden underground.
  • Low maintenance required.
  • Water is used for polytunnel and cleaning the back of the house yard.
  • Installed 4 shoots running from gutters into pipes bringing rainwater to the tank. This water is used daily for watering plants/polytunnel and cleaning also.
  • It is also used for power hosing the hotel and footpaths.
  1. Changing Behaviour
  • Suggest actively changing behaviour on a weekly basis by engaging and encouraging the team to reduce their carbon footprint. This training and education hugely increased their positive effects on the activities and achieving the fundamental targets that are set in place.
  • Examples include refraining from defrosting food with running water, training kitchen porters not to leave taps running – knee taps are a good option, standard operating procedures for cleaning bedrooms and fix leaks and dripping taps/equipment.
  1. Additional Steps
  • Water refill station.
  • Sell reusable water bottles.
  • No plastic bottles of water or soft drinks sold in plastic.
  • Urinals in bathrooms flush every 2 hours and are spot checked regularly.
  • Operate a towel and linen re-use programme in the bedrooms to reduce amount of laundry.
  • Incentivise the guests to not have their room serviced by giving them a 5 euro bar voucher, there has been a very positive uptake on this offering.
  1. Recommended Steps and Tips
  • Start if you havent already, as it is the responsible thing to do and a positive exercise for the team, guests, suppliers and all stakeholders.
  • Get your team involved.
  • First step is to start recording and monitoring water usage and then setting a target for what you want your business to achieve in terms of a reduction.
  • Train your team from Day 1 about reducing water consumption.
  • Hippo Bags/Aerators/Harvesting Rainwater.
  • Train staff to be aware of reducing water consumption. Get their ideas and suggestions.
  • File the following invoices in a separate folder – water, waste and energy bills. Start tracking your consumption of all these and set a target. Look at your consumption and follow up on discrepancies as you may have a leak.

CONCLUSION

The workshop finished by highlighting the 4 main action areas:

  1. Fix leaks – it is your responsibility to check as once the water enters your property, you are responsible for it.
  • Mains leak: Overnight test
    • Select a time when your business has minimal or no activity.
    • Take a meter reading.
    • Wait 3 hours and take the meter reading again.
    • If there is a substantial difference, you have a leak.
    • Call a plumber.
    • Contact NI Water to report leak and find out if they can repair.
  • Equipment Leaks
    • Act on leaky equipment as quickly as possible eg taps, shower heads, appliances.
    • Engage staff to be alert to leaks and to report leaky equipment.
    • Designate responsibility for reporting leaks.
  1. Invest in equipment
  • Aerators – to reduce flow rate (without affecting customer experience).
  • Cistern Bags – if toilet flow is high. Monitor to ensure flush remains strong enough.
  • Waterless or sensored urinals.
  • Taps – replace traditional taps with mixer taps, lever taps or sensor taps. If a kitchen porter leaves the Pot Wash Sink Tap (20 litres per minute) on with no stopper in the sink for 5 minutes every hour, 1700 litres per day are wasted, ie 620,500 litres per year, costing 1,800 euros per year for cold water and 10,000 euros per year.
  • Low flow showers – mix air with water to preserve shower experience.
  1. Change behaviour
  • Start with  yourself!
  • Invest in communication, training and monitoring.
  • Train staff to set equipment to water-saving and energy-saving cycles.
  • Invite ideas for water conservation from your team.
  • Recognise and reward great suggestions or actions and the impact of staff actions on savings.

Indoors

  • Choice of wash cycle in dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Ensuring full loads.
  • Minimising water used when cleaning.
  • Use of alternative cleaning products that don’t require rinsing.
  • Use of sink stopper when rinsing or washing.
  • Avoidance of tap-running in advance of or after cleaning.

Outdoors

  • Check sprinklers are not sprinkling hard surfaces.
  • Select plants that require minimal watering.
  • Water early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid evaporation.
  • Start mulching – add a layer of bark to keep the sun off the soil and reduce water.
  1. Introduce new systems
  • Install sub-meters where relevant.
  • Rainwater harvesting.
  • Water filtration system.

Q&A SESSION

  • Would the Doolin Hotel consider using micro towels as they dry quicker? No, guest comfort is more important and different towels would not make a significant saving.
  • Would Doolin Hotel recommend rainwater harvesting? Yes, a win win. Payback in 2-3 years and not expensive to maintain. If doing any building work, it would be recommended to put underground tanks in at that stage – two tanks are needed, one which fills while the other one is draining.
  • Water Meters. More information can be found on the NI Water site and Consumer Council NI can also provide free advice.