Talking toilets: Flushed with success

Water conservation is of prime importance in a region where consumption levels are higher than most places in the world. Fairmont Dubai's eco-champion Alka Patel gives some helpful tips.
Talking toilets: Flushed with success
By Alka Patel
Thu 08 May 2008 04:00 AM

Water conservation is of prime importance in a region where consumption levels are higher than most places in the world. Fairmont Dubai's eco-champion Alka Patel gives some helpful tips.

It is important to point out that 97% of the world's water is salty or otherwise undrinkable, whilst another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% for all of our needs - agricultural, residential, industrial, community and personal.

Flushing toilets accounts for the highest amount of water usage in a hotel room.

The United Nations recommends that people need a minimum of 13 gallons (50L) of water every day. The UAE has one of the highest water consumption levels in the world.

We live in a region that produces most of its water through desalination. This process of generating potable water from seawater practised in the UAE requires the burning of diesel oil or gas, which means the pumping of unwanted carbon monoxide and sulphurous gas into the atmosphere.

The water use in a hotel is comparable to household consumption, but on a larger scale, from laundry facilities to kitchen use, guestroom toilets and shower heads to irrigation for the grounds.

According to Fairmont's Green Partnership Program A Practical Guide to Greening Your Hotel, extraordinary amounts of water can be conserved by maintaining taps, valves and pipes, maintaining and upgrading toilets, retrofitting shower heads with low flow, and re-using grey water.

Fix leaking taps, valves and pipes

A leaking tap, whether a slow, steady drip (100 drops per minute) or a fast stream will waste up to 50,000 gallons (200,000L) of water per year, and we pay for every drop when we transport it to the water treatment plant, to purify it, to pump it and finally to process it at a sewage treatment plant. Install a new washer in a dripping tap - it's cheaper.

Water in toilets

Flushing the toilet accounts for the highest amount of water usage in a hotel room - the average guest flushes the toilet a minimum of four times per night. Conserving water in toilets will make a big difference in your overall consumption.

But remember, if you adjust the gallons per flush too low, users may end up flushing twice, and all your water saving efforts will have been in vain. Check that your toilets aren't leaking

On average 25% of all toilets leak. One drop of water per second wastes over 200 gallons (800L) of water a month. To find out if you have a hidden leak, place ten drops of food colouring in the toilet tank.

If after 15 minutes food colouring appears in the bowl you have a leak. Clean the flapper valve seat. If the leak persists, you may need to replace the flapper valve. Conventional flapper valves are available from most hardware stores and plumbers.

Put toilet dams in all toilets to reduce water consumption

Commercial plastic toilet dams are inexpensive and easily placed on either side of the drain hole in the back of reservoir toilets. They are designed for toilets that use more than five gallons (18L) per flush. As an alternative you can place weighted plastic bottles (usually filled with sand or water) inside the toilet tank.

Depending on the tank and the placement, up to 1.3 gallons (5L) can be saved with each flush - up to 5000 gallons (18,000L) per year, without any guest inconvenience whatsoever. Install a dual flusher

A dual flusher toilet allows the user to choose two different amounts of water per flush. It includes a device that closes the flush valve or the flapper after the tank is only partially emptied, creating a 'mini flush'.

On the outside of the tank are two levers: one initiates the normal flush while the other (shorter handle) activates the mini flush for liquid waste. The mini flush reduces the amount of water used by one third. These devices are common in countries such as Australia, where water conservation is an important issue.

Retrofit or install low-flow showerheads

Water-conserving showerheads replace some water with air to produce a forceful spray, fully capable of delivering a comfortable shower.

Where a conventional shower head uses four to eight gallons (15 to 30L) of water a minute, a high quality, low flow shower head delivers about two gallons (7.6L) a minute and gives an equally satisfactory shower while saving 30 to 50 gallons (115 to 190L) of hot water per day.

Develop creative ways to reuse grey water

Gray water is water that has been used and is therefore not consumable, but can still be used for another purpose, for example, dishwashers and laundry washing machines can use final rinse water from the previous wash, for pre-washing the next load of dishes or laundry.

Gray water from many different areas can be used to irrigate the grounds and lawns. Other ways to save water

• Upgrade all laundry and kitchen equipment to current standards.

• Avoid running the water in kitchens to, for example, thaw food. Alka Patel is the public relations manager for The Fairmont Dubai.

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