Hotels and restaurants are among the biggest consumers of water among commercial entities. Hotels and restaurants go hand in hand with tourism, whose (tourism) related and supporting activities rely on the availability and reliability of freshwater sources. Hotel guests on average use more water than a local, with water consumption per capita varying between 100-2000 liters of water per bed per night (Dinarès & Saurí, 2015). Water consumption in hotels and restaurants aside from having environmental implications also has cost implications for the establishments. The last decade has seen the cost of water and wastewater services rise well above the consumer price index. Such costs are a cause for alarm, necessitating the implementation of water conservation measures in the establishments. The paper will argue that water conservation in hotels and restaurants is possible and comes with cost-cutting advantages for the establishments and conservation of the environment.
Hotels and restaurants account for a large percentage of water consumption across the world. Dinarès and Saurí (2015) inform that the annual use of water in Barcelona stands at 2,747,489 cubic meters, which is an equivalent of 7.63 million liters of water a day. Senevirantne (2017), on the other hand, informs that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates indicate that hotels use an average of 791 liters of water per room per day or 209 gallons per room per day. While this is the average for a medium hotel, larger and more luxury hotels have higher consumptions of up to 250 gals per day per room. These statistics point to a huge amount of water consumption by hotels and restaurants that warrant expedited intervention.
Aside from the concern over the amount of water used in the establishments, the cost is another cause for worry over such huge amounts of water consumed. EPA (2012) informs that over the past decade, the cost of water and wastewater services have been on the increase, reaching rates above the consumer price index. EPA (2012) continues to warn establishments that the costs will continue to rise in their bid to offset the costs incurred in replacing aging water supply systems. According to Hargroves (2009), by 2009, an average Australian hotel spent AUD$200,000 (approximately US$ 136,889) or more on water and wastewater services annually. Establishments located in remote areas where town water supply in non-existent pay even more in water costs. Senevirantne (2017) posits that such establishments use up to US$75 per 1000 gal. of water. Such costs can be prohibitive while at the same time eat into the establishments’ profits.
Water conservation measures have the potential of reducing the rising operating costs. According to EPA (2012), implementing water-efficient practices in the establishments has the potential of decreasing operating costs by 11%, while reducing water and energy use and cost by 15 and 10 percent respectively. Hargroves (2009) reached a similar assessment on cost-saving by reduction of water stating that hotels and restaurants can reduce water usage by 201-40 percent without compromising guest comfort. He further points out that by reducing water consumption, large hotels can save between AUD$25,000 (US$17,111) and AUD$60,000 (US$41,066). The savings in water and operating costs are possible only through a process that ropes in key personnel central to the decision-making process of any establishment. These individuals must also be able to understand water-saving opportunities and develop a set of strategies and policies to that effect. Included in the list of personnel are maintenance staff, senior managers, facilities managers, general staff, and human resource staff (Hargroves, 2009). The human resource staff is especially important given their role in training and knowledge sharing with the general staff. If possible, the whole process can include an environment team or external consultants. All these will be responsible for implementing strategies geared towards water conservation measures in the establishments.
The first strategy/initiative that hotels and restaurants can take towards water conservation is developing and strictly following a water conservation policy. Senevirantne (2017) contends that a water environment policy needs to communicate the commitment and responsibilities of guests and staff in the conservation of water (and by extension the environment) and the procurement procedures/practices. The policy needs to emphasize the education of the staff because the staff is the one group that comes into contact with water often. Communicating the importance of water conservation and putting measures in place in the establishment’s processes and routines will ensure that the staff not only understands the need for water conservation but also proactively participate in the water conservation measures. The policy must also include guests, who are also part of the system. Communicating such information can go a long way in involving guests in the water conservation measures. Moreover, such a policy can also include incentives to guests who participate in water conservation measures.
Starwood Hotels is among the establishments using incentives to involve their guests in water conservation. The establishment’s goal is to reduce water consumption across all its brands by 20% by 2020 (Tuppen, 2013). As part of the initiative to achieve the goal, Starwood offers a $5 voucher to its guests who opt out of the daily cleaning of their rooms. The guests can spend the voucher in the shop, restaurant or bar (Tuppen, 2013). Starwood is not the only establishment that gives its guests this option: Flamingo in Las Vegas offers its guests a $10 a day food and beverage credit if they forgo housekeeping (Ellin, 2018). Marriot International offers guests about 500 Marriot Reward points if they opt-out of housekeeping, a move that has been beneficial to the Hotel and the environment. Ellin (2018) informs that through the initiative Marriot has seen a lowering of its energy use by 13.2 percent, water use by 7.7 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 15.8 percent. Reducing/eliminating housekeeping works in that it reduces water consumption in washing towels and beddings and reduces energy consumption in running vacuum cleaners, while at the same time reducing the amount of chemicals released to the sewer system and environment.
Aside from establishing and following a water conservation policy, it is also important to perform a water audit. Dinarès and Saurí (2015) assert that a water audit helps in identifying the sources that use maximum water quantities. Audits in hotels and restaurants usually identify the laundry, cooling towers, kitchen, rooms, swimming pools, and landscaping as the areas with the largest water consumption. By identifying the areas with large water consumption, it is then possible to implement initiatives aimed at reducing the amount of water used in such areas.
In hotel rooms, showers and toilets are among the largest consumers of water. According to Dinarès and Saurí (2015), hotel rooms consume 100-2000 liters of water per bed per night. Such levels of consumption highlight high levels of wastage in the rooms. To solve this, Senevirantne (2017) that hotels can install water-efficient showerheads, which flow at the rate of 2.4-3.2 gal. per minute. The cost and water-saving features of the water-efficient showerheads are perhaps evidenced by the Langham Hotel in Melbourne, which has been able to achieve water saving reductions of 4,298 cubic meters annually (Tuppen, 2013). Such savings prove worthy, even as some hotels remain reluctant to install such showerheads fearing guest complaints that would damage the brand’s reputation. Ellin (2018), however, asserts that many guests welcome such initiatives and are happy to stay in environmentally friendly establishments.
The kitchen is another water-hungry area that consumes a lot of water, but with the possibility of improvements. EPA (2012) states that dipper wells and wok stoves consume quite a large amount of water due to the continuous water flow. Upgrading or replacing equipment in the kitchen can have a huge impact on water consumption. For instance, the Boston University cafeteria upgraded their kitchen with high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves. EPA (2012) informs that the result of the upgrade was a 68% reduction in water consumption. Each year since the installation of sprays, the cafeteria saved 48,000 gallons of water.
Hotels and restaurants use a lot of water in the kitchen, bathroom, swimming pool, and landscaping. Often, the usage in these places are excessive and have impactful environmental consequences. The establishments need to reduce water consumption as it reduces not only their impact on the environment but also has cost-saving benefits to the establishments. A water conservation policy, water-efficient equipment, and incentives to guests have proven effective in reducing water consumption with great success. While some may have initial prohibitive costs, they eventually pay back in not only ensuring a greener environment but also in operating cost savings to the establishments.
Dinarès, M. & Saurí, D. (2015). Water consumption patterns of hotels and their response to droughts and public concerns regarding water conservation: The case of the Barcelona hotel industry during the 2007-2008 episode. Documents d’Anàlisi Geogràfica, 61(3), 623-649
Ellin, A. (2018). How skipping hotel housekeeping can help the environment and your wallet. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/27/travel/skipping-hotel-housekeeping-perks.html.
EPA (2012). Saving Water in Restaurants. EPA. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-01/documents/ws-commercial-factsheet-restaurants.pdf.
Hargroves, K. et al. (2009). Water Transformed: Sustainable Water Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation. The Natural Edge Project.
Senevirantne, M. (2017). A Practical Approach to Water Conservation for Commercial and Industrial Facilities, 1st ed. Sydney: Elsevier Science
Tuppen, H. (2013). Water management and responsibility in hotels. Green Hotelier. Retrieved from https://www.greenhotelier.org/know-how-guides/water-management-and-responsibility-in-hotels/.