In response to California’s ongoing drought conditions, the California Building Standards Commission recently adopted emergency regulations that limit potable water use for outdoor irrigation at California hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

Each local water district has a targeted water reduction limit that it negotiated with the state of California, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).

The outdoor irrigation standards are usually enforced by the local building department, which conducts inspections for compliance, OSHPD officials say.

While California’s water situation is severe, water availability has become more of an issue in other regions throughout the United States in recent years. Plus, water is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions because of the energy consumption related to distribution and treatment.

Reducing reliance on outside suppliers for water allows facilities to take more control over the quality of their water. This can improve equipment operation and duration as well as protect against contaminants that can impact patient health, according to the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals website. 

Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce usage of this precious resource. The installation of low-flow faucets, showerheads and other bathroom fixtures are basic measures you can take to reduce water consumption.

A few of the many water-saving actions outlined on the sustainability website include:

• Conducting steam trap audits to prevent and fix leaks, which can cause the loss of up to 20 percent of the steam generated by a typical boiler. Preventing steam leaks will enhance both water- and energy-efficiency, improve heating system reliability and increase life expectancy of equipment.

• Making adjustments to cooling towers, which can account for up to 25 percent of a facility’s total water consumption. In many cases, the amount of blowdown for a cooling tower is greater than necessary, resulting in wasted water. Reducing the blowdown rate can be achieved by decreasing the amount of makeup water needed to keep solids and chemicals dissolved.

• Upgrading laundry equipment to more efficient models and also avoiding washing partial loads using the same amount of water and energy as for a full load.

The sustainability website was developed by the American Hospital Association, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, the Association for the Healthcare Environment and the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management.