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Water-saving opportunities for health-care facilities

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Clean water and human health are closely interconnected and the need to provide clean water has major environmental impacts. Water treatment consumes energy that contributes to GHG emissions, and excessive water consumption disrupts the water balance of sensitive ecosystems. Therefore, sustainable water use and conservation practices in health-care facilities can have a significant impact on human health and the environment.

The health-care sector is one of the most intensive water users in North American communities. To conserve water in Lower Mainland health-care facilities, the Energy and Environmental Sustainability (EES) team has been tracking water use and has set progressive reduction targets for health authorities to meet, previously for 2020 and now for 2030. The goal is to minimize water consumption and associated energy consumption and GHG emissions.

Researching Best Practices

A research project is currently underway to identify the challenges to water conservation in our health-care facilities and find opportunities to support facilities in achieving their targets. From the UBC Sustainability Scholars program, Monika Korczewski is working with the EES team on this endeavour, under the supervision of Ghazal Ebrahimi, energy and carbon emissions manager at PHSA.

The researcher is reviewing North American case studies to identify best practices for water conservation, such as technologies and retrofits to existing fixtures and equipment, as well as recommendations for operational, maintenance, and training strategies. EES is sharing these potential practices for Lower Mainland facilities with various groups of stakeholders, including facilities maintenance and operations, clinical staff, housekeeping and others, to consider their feasibility and to uncover any barriers to implementation. The final report will compare a range of water-saving opportunities and guidance for a water management plan at health-care facilities. Preliminary recommendations point to increasing water metering, incorporating water efficiency metrics into new builds and service contracts, and enhancing education and awareness on the importance of water conservation for patients, staff and visitors.

Making Progress Now

EES member Sabah Ali, a regional energy coordinator, was interviewed by the researcher to share his thoughts on water conservation in health care.

Soon we will have more drought problems, more wildfire, and more and more water restrictions,” says Sabah, and that will lead to the prioritization of water projects.”

 

Rather than wait for intense demand to cause water shortages, Lower Mainland facilities have been monitoring water use since 2010 and progress toward water-reduction targets is well underway. With the forthcoming water management plan stemming from this research project, even greater water savings are expected.