|St Mary's Hospital. Photo by Perkins + Will
Hospitals use a tremendous amount of water. In the U.S hospitals and other health care facilities account for 7% of water usage in commercial and institutional facilities. The EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager has found that the median hospital uses 350 gallons of water per day per bed. But it doesn't have to be this way. With new incentives and technology emerging, water usage and waste is becoming easier to track and save.
The Provincial Health Authority of BC commissioned Edge Consulting to conduct a water audit of the St Mary's Hospital in Sechlet, BC. The hospital felt that their water usage was too high and that there was room for improvement. Our report and audit found a number of places to save water as well as places where non-potable water could affordably and safely be used onsite. We also discovered decommissioned meters that were still being charged even though they were not connected to any water source.
The report's biggest actionable item was the hospital's laundry area, which accounted for 47% of the total water use by the hospital. The amount of water was largely because the facility does healthcare laundry for most of the Sunshine Coast. In comparison, the American Water Works association estimates that laundry facilities in an average hospital only account for 9% of water usage. Edge is currently investigating a water treatment and capture design to use both storm water and grey water in the laundry room to reduce potable water use at the hospital by up to 47%. In addition, the hospital is looking into saving water usage by moving all machines to the most efficient water usage standards. There are often financial incentives such as tax rebates offered for making the switch to more energy and water efficient appliances such as Energy Star or Water Sense. Using these appliances also contributes to LEED for Healthcare points.
The findings of the St Mary's Hospital water audit are an example of how important these audits are and how the Health Authority is taking a leadership position on water usage. As time goes on, appliances age, infrastructure becomes neglected, and new techniques and technology emerge that allow us to reevaluate water usage, upgrade, and save. Edge recommends water audits take place every few years to ensure that no water is going to waste, water bills are accurate, and new sustainable methods are being utilized to save you water and money.