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The 9 Best Practices for Managing Water Data This Summer

During the warm summer months, water use can spike. Universities and corporate companies must pay to keep lawns and landscaping watered. Tenants in residential buildings and condos are consuming more water for hydration, gardening, and various other needs. Finally, farming companies must use large volumes of water to irrigate crops. All this water use can be expensive, not to mention wasteful if the volume is not well managed. That’s why proper management of water data is a necessity.

Benefits of Managing Water Data

Managing your company’s water data is a crucial step towards reducing water use. Not only is water conservation a major sustainability trend this year, but investors, stakeholders, and consumers all appreciate companies that make an effort to practice sustainability. Being informed about where, when, and how your company is using water allows you to identify areas where improvements can be made and inefficiencies addressed. 

9 Tips for Managing Water Data

1. Become Familiar with Units

Different utilities use different units for measuring water use. The most common units are centum cubic feet (CCF) and the gallon. A CCF, also called an HCF (hundred cubic feet), represents one hundred cubic feet of water. This is the most common unit used by both water and natural gas utilities. One CCF is equal to 748 gallons.

2. Follow ASHRAE Guideline 14-2014

To help standardize the calculation processes of energy and water efficiency projects, ASHRAE developed Guideline 14-2014, Measurement of Energy, Demand, and Water Savings.  Its primary purpose is to “provide guidelines for reliably measuring the energy, demand, and water savings achieved in conservation projects.” To determine your savings, measurements of post-retrofit water use are compared to pre-retrofit use and adjusted to show a representation of the conditions if the retrofit had not been implemented.  The ASHRAE Guidelines include demand and water savings from individual facilities or meters and encompass all types of facilities (commercial, industrial, and residential).

3. Participate in IPMVP

It’s always smart to measure and verify your water savings. (Measurement and Verification (M&V) is the process of planning, measuring, collecting, and analyzing water data for the purpose of verifying and reporting your water savings within your facility resulting from the implementation of energy conservation measures.) However, savings are difficult to measure directly since they signify water not being used.  The International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) determines savings by comparing measured consumption or demand before and after implementation of a program, making suitable adjustments for changes in conditions (e.g. occupancy, widget production, weather, etc.).  A comparison of unadjusted invoice or meter data would just illustrate the raw increase/decrease over the period you are analyzing, without accounting for other changes that may impact water consumption.  Savings, or avoided water use/cost avoidance, tells you how much less you have used than you would have without implementing your water conservation measure. 

5. Use the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an online benchmarking tool that helps track and measure your water consumption (among other commodities).  Portfolio Manager allows you to track one building or an entire portfolio of buildings.  To get started, you only need your water utility bills and some basic information on your property (this varies depending on building type).

6. Understand Rate Types

Water utilities must charge customers to construct and maintain water storage tanks, treatment plants, and the underground pipes that deliver water to homes and businesses. As a result, there are myriad rate types that are used when billing customers. They include:

  • Flat Fee Rates: This is the simplest rate, where all customers are charged the same fee, regardless of the amount of water used. Since these rates are ill-suited to promoting water efficiency, they are rarely used today.
  • Uniform Rates: A structure that has a constant per unit price for all metered units of water consumed on a year-round basis. In contrast to the flat fee, it requires metered service. Because the bill rises and falls along with water usage, this rate encourages conservation.
  • Increasing Block Rates: With this rate, the unit price of each succeeding block of usage is charged at a higher unit rate than the previous block(s). Increasing block rates are designed to promote conservation and are most often found in urban areas or areas where the availability of water is limited.
  • Declining Block Rates: As the opposite of increasing block rates, the unit price of each succeeding block of usage is charged at a lower unit rate than the previous block(s). Declining block rates are common in areas where water is readily available, rural areas servicing large farming populations, or areas with large users, such as heavy industry.
  • Seasonal Rates: These rates cover a specific time period and are established to encourage conservation during peak use periods. This means that during the summer season, rates would increase for customers.
  • Drought Rates: This structure is similar to seasonal rates. However, instead of charging higher rates during a season, drought rates adjust based on the local area’s drought level to encourage water conservation. The more extreme and prolonged the drought, the higher the prices.
  • Water Budget Based Rates: Here, a building is given a “water budget” based on the anticipated needs of the building, either by the number of people living/working there or the size of the property. Users are charged a certain rate for use within their budget and a higher rate if they exceed the budget.

Many utilities use a combination of a fixed fee (base) and a variable fee (volume) for their water rate structure. Fixed charges usually include the price the customer pays as a base charge to help cover costs for maintaining water infrastructure. Variable charges are the price the customer pays per volume of water used. These charges reflect the costs of chemical treatments to purify water and energy to deliver the water to customers.

7. Know Your Usage Trend

Does your water bill explain your building’s usage trend? Some utilities provide graphs showing how your water use varies over the course of the year(s). This is a useful way of determining when your own water use peaks. While using water efficiently is important throughout the year, sometimes the timing of water use can make a big difference your water bill. Just as you must monitor your peak load times for energy usage, you must manage peak load times for water use, both to save money and conserve water.

8. Be Aware of Where Your Charges Are Going

Most utilities will provide a breakdown of charges in the “billing detail” or “summary of charges” section. Some utilities will measure both the water entering the house and waste leaving for the sewer. However, most utilities only have one meter on location that charges both volumes based on water entering the property. This is a further incentive to reduce your property’s water use. For an explanation of charges and surcharges on your water bill, refer to the appendix of your water bill or your local water utility’s website. 

9. Acquire Water Management Software

One of the most straightforward ways to monitor you water usage and data is to use software specifically designed to do it for you – this prevents the hassle of manually going through each water bill. EnergyWatch’s watchwire software allows you to monitor your water data for inconsistencies, benchmark your buildings against each other, and align your water use with ASHRAE and ENERGY STAR guidelines.

Next Steps

As discussed above, it is important to have a good idea of your current water data before you make any changes. Once you are familiar with the water data of buildings in your portfolio, you can begin to make changes to improve conservation and efficiency, either manually or with the help of water management software. For more information on how watchwire can help you manage your water data, download the Watchwire Fact Sheet.