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With the drought in metro Atlanta, restrictions have been put in place to reduce water consumption. For some reason, however, most remediation measures have been focused on home usage.
But then we go to work and see lush green lawns and blossoming flowers outside our office doors. We use our office air conditioners 24/7, even when we're not there, letting condensate drip away into sewage drains behind the building without thinking twice about it. We spend more time at our offices than we do at home, so what are we doing in the office to help our water crisis?
With all the new construction coming onboard in Atlanta, there are extensive opportunities to incorporate water conservation techniques into building design. Smart design can cut water usage by at least 20%.
Motion sensors or low-flow aerators on faucets can significantly reduce the water wasted in restrooms and office kitchens. Any office renovation can incorporate these new features, and clients new to the building can be encouraged to incorporate these features in their new spaces.
Low flow or waterless urinals, and low flow or dual flush toilets are one of the easiest ways to conserve water. Low flow appliances are not expensive to install and can save up to half of the water used. This can save up to 3 gallons per office worker per day.
Landscape architects can incorporate native or adapted plants that are climate tolerant and require little or no irrigation. For existing buildings, property managers and owners can change the site landscape to reduce its demand on our water supply.
Incorporating large containers to capture equipment condensate, such as that coming off air conditioners, can in some cases actually provide 100% of site irrigation needs, completely eliminating the need for externally supplied irrigation water. These containers can be placed underground and out of view.
Smart storm water management also includes directing rainfall to gardens for irrigation and then to replenish our groundwater supply. This can be done for new and existing buildings and reduce the amount of rainfall leaving the site by more than 25%.
On top of this, if all office workers were able to reduce their water consumption by just one gallon a week, that would save our city 2.3 mg/wk, which is almost 10 mg/mo.
It is not enough to conserve at home. We need to be cognizant of our water usage no matter where we are, whether it's at home, school or work.