Quick wins for water wise workplaces
Article3min09 October 2018
Years of drought in parts of Australia has thrown water security back into the spotlight. As building owners take proactive steps to manage our most precious resource, how can you help create a water wise workplace?
Our sunburnt country has always been shaped by droughts and flooding rains. But researchers from the University of Melbourne have found the current dry spell may be the worst to hit our continent in 800 years.
Fresh, virtually free water is something that most Australians take for granted. But let’s not get lulled into a false sense of water security. Long-term changes to rainfall, population growth and climate change are likely to reduce the volume of water available from our catchments.
Many of our city dams are already at dangerously-low levels – and summer’s peak is months away. Sydney’s Warragamba Dam – Australia’s largest urban water supply dam – is hovering at 66 per cent capacity. Brisbane’s main water supply, Wivenhoe Dam, is 69 per cent full. Taken together, Melbourne's 10 reservoirs sit at 64 per cent, while Perth's dams are 53 per cent full.1
Is this the new normal?
The Climate Council’s ground-breaking report, Thirsty Country, found water inflows to key Sydney dams could fall by 25 per cent by 2070. In Greater Perth, annual water demand will outstrip supply by as much as 85 billion litres by 2030 – and that’s enough water to fill 34,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. And average flows to Melbourne’s four largest water harvesting dams could decrease by around a fifth by 2050.
The United Nations tells us that our buildings consume around 25 per cent of the world’s water resources – and the people who use our buildings are at the heart of water wise solutions.
"Bringing together good behaviour, technology and effective management will enable buildings to become truly water wise."
Proactive steps to save our precious resource
Australia’s largest commercial building owners are taking proactive steps to preserve our precious water resources, says Paul Wall, Head of Group Sustainability and Energy at Dexus.
“Many building owners are looking at water consumption in tandem with carbon emissions, because conserving water can also save energy where electricity is used for hot water, boilers and cooling towers,” Wall explains.
“At Dexus, we are using data and analytics to help us detect leaks and proactively manage potential problems before they arise. We are also investing in water-efficient systems, onsite water recycling and rainwater harvesting to cut water consumption and help our customers save money.
“Our focus on water is working, and Dexus now boasts circa 600,000 sqm of office space with 4 star NABERS Water ratings,” Wall adds.
Warragamba Dam, supplying the Greater Sydney area with drinking water, is currently at 66 per cent capacity.
Dexus’s top five water-saving strategies
Of course, Dexus can operate a world-leading sustainable building, but if the people inside the building don’t care about the dripping tap, then it won’t be a water wise wonder.
- Water-efficient wonders: Low-flow taps or tap aerators can reduce tap water from up to 18 litres a minute to as little as two litres per minute. It is also important to considering drought tolerant planting.
- Harness rainwater: Expansive roofs on shopping centres and industrial facilities help harvest rainwater. Quarry at Greystanes minimises reliance on potable water supplies by collecting rainwater for flushing toilets and landscape irrigation.
- Monitor and manage: Water consumption through sophisticated metering and analytics detects leaks, identifies potential problems and improves long-term building performance.
- Optimise and upgrade: Water-efficient systems can make sizeable savings. Cooling towers alone can use up to 50 per cent of an office’s annual water.
- Waste not, want not: When properly treated, grey and blackwater can be recycled and reused for toilet flushing. Dexus’s 1 Bligh Street office in Sydney, for example, recycles 100,000 litres of water a day through blackwater recycling technology.
“Bringing together good behaviour, technology and effective management will enable buildings to become truly water wise” Wall concludes.
1. As at 5 October 2018.
What can you do to save water at work?
Here are six water-savvy tips to help you save water at work:
- Reach for the stars: The Green Building Council of Australia has found buildings with Green Star ratings consume 51 per cent less potable water than standard buildings. Discuss with your landlord to find out how efficiently you’re using water and opportunities to reduce consumption.
- Shorten your shower: You may enjoy a long, hot shower after cycling into work, but did you know an eight-minute shower can use up to 120 litres of water?
- Be alert to leaks: Make sure everyone in the office – including your contract cleaners – are on the lookout for dripping taps and running cisterns.
- Utilise rainwater: Use recycled water to clean equipment and vehicles, or to hose down hard areas.
- Delay the dish washing: Wait until the workplace dishwasher is full before running a cycle – and when it’s time to upgrade invest in the highest-star appliance you can afford.
- Look at the label: Choose appliances with high star ratings under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme.