Infrastructure Maintenance: Managing water in FM
Water is a precious commodity and analysis has shown that its scarcity is where the next big global crisis may come from. This is already being demonstrated around the world as water is becoming scarcer due to drought and a changing climate. Tensions and conflicts are evident as a result. In Nigeria, we already have examples of tensions that lack of water and/or access to water can cause. All across Africa, there is an ongoing struggle for water, as there is less and less of it, inducing violent conflicts across the continent along with famine.
This means water management is a responsibility and priority for everyone. Water management is especially critical as part of the functions of a facilities manager. The use of water and its efficiency are often part indicators of building performance and often lead to cutting down of operational cost.
A sound water management policy and practice ensures an alignment to government water regulations, prepares for any shortages and most importantly, helps to preserve a natural resource that is fundamental to life as we know it.
The first step to effective management of water is in developing a plan, a process that is both logical and systematic. It is not just enough to do a cost benefit analysis. A plan has to look at both the technical side of water management and the human angle, which is, working with employees’ mindset on how they see and use water. This is important, as not only is it necessary to save cost but to document how the cost (and water) are actually being saved.
A plan is usually made up of three components; (i) the techniques for saving water and losses, for example fixing leaking faucets/taps on time, reducing amount of water used by equipment and reusing water in other areas, for example for gardening; (ii) understanding how much water is being used, how it is being used and by who; and (iii) linking water use to other factors, for example – water heaters, washing machines etc. and how their use may not only increase water usage, but also energy costs.
In implementing a water management plan, a facilities manager has to take a ‘water use’ inventory. This can be done through assessing water needs of all within the facility, analysis of water and sewer bills on a monthly basis, the regularity of janitorial work schedules – how often they have to use water, and finally the number of users as well as an inventory of their visitors.
Another strategy is to undertake a facility study through direct observations of equipment and devices and amount of water being used. This can be followed by taking a water log of each equipment through the installation of temporary meters, an inventory of all plumbing fixtures, as well as those that need fixing that may have a negative impact on water consumption, for example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 15 litres of water a day, and what can be recycled for other purposes.
Getting an estimation of water balance is also important for a water management plan. This can be done by taking all the analysis described above to estimate not only the approximate needs of the facility each year and each month, but can already indicate where wastage is occurring and how this can be fixed.
A water management plan cannot be effective without the buy in of all stakeholders. This will require discussions highlighting economic gains and ensuring a consistent tracking of the plan.
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