Water is one of the most valuable natural resources we have on this earth. However, this natural resource has been taken for granted long enough. As the world’s population continues to grow our resources continue to fall. The population of the United States has doubled over the past 50 years and our thirst for water has tripled and at least 36 states are facing serious water shortages as soon as 2013. It is absolutely imperative that we become more committed to conserving our water on all sides – residential, industrial, and commercial.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on board with water conservation so completely that their two main types of facilities, laboratories and offices, have water-saving efforts in place. In 2009 the EPA reduced its water use by 10.8% compared to their 2007 baseline. There were 17 federal agencies that signed on in January 2006 to protect and conserve water. These agencies were provided with guiding principles for integrated design, energy performance, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, and materials use and disposal. Agencies were encouraged to employ strategies that use at least 20% less indoor water compared to the building’s baseline and agencies should use water-efficient landscape and irrigation strategies to reduce the outdoor water consumption by at least 50% over conventional strategies. If these federal agencies can get on board and recognize the need of water conservation, then our other industrial and commercial sectors should do the same.Perhaps the reason businesses don’t really get on board with water conservation is they don’t know where to start. The fact is, in order to fix something that is broken you have to know where it is broken and how much is broken so you can buy the right parts and do the repair correctly. It is the same with water conservation, one must know where the leaks are and where the waste is before they can fix the leaks and stop the waste. This is where the water audit comes in handy. This is a process available to all water users find all those leaks and waste areas. The commercial water audit is sometimes offered free of charge by water utility companies simply because if the waste can be contained there is less water being used, so it saves everyone money in the long run. Companies that use massive amounts of water should seriously consider hiring professional help in examining where their water goes.A commercial water audit examines how much water a business uses and provides detailed information on where they can use less and save money and they can also identify costly water leaks that must be repaired. Not every business CEO knows that the faucet on the third floor ladies restroom has been leaking for 2 months straight nonstop. While maintenance might be aware of it, the request for repair memo might be delayed or never even filled out. The faucet continues to leak thus wasting about 3,000 gallons over a year period. Perhaps the toilet on the second floor is also leaking; this can waste about 200 gallons of water each day. Maintenance might not know that putting a drop of liquid food coloring in the tank of the toilet and watching for color to show in the bowl without flushing is a way to find out if the toilet leaks. The water audit would find the leak. That’s only the beginning of what a water audit would find as it would examine not just the indoor water uses but also the outdoor uses as well as any areas where water is used in production.Restaurants are frequented by many patrons throughout the day. The restrooms aren’t the only high water use area in the building. The kitchen uses a lot of water in food preparation and in cleanup. Restaurants can conserve a lot of water simply by changing the pre-rinse spray valves in the dishwashing area. Switching from a high-water-use, low-pressure pre-rinse valve to a lower water use, higher pressure valve that use only 1.6 gallons per minute at 60 psi makes it both more efficient and water friendly. This switch would save between 25% and 60% on water use. Another change is in the ice machines as ice makers use about 130 to 180 gallons of cooling water to make 100 pounds of ice. An efficient ice maker uses no more than 20 gallons of water to make 100 pounds of ice and flake ice machines are even more water efficient using just 12 gallons of water for 100 pounds of ice. One more option is to choose an air-cooled model over a water-cooled model; these changes can save between 15% and 50% on water usage. These are just two of the changes a water audit might find to save restaurant money on its water bill. There are other changes that are low cost changes but have a big impact on water usage that most people wouldn’t think of, but the water audit would.There are other commercial businesses that really use a lot of water in their day to day function. Hospitals, clinics, urgent care facilities are all very water intensive as are hotels, commercial laundry facilities, and the above mentioned restaurants with food services. All of these use water for a lot of their functions. The constant hand washing in the medical offices is only a drop in the bucket to what the water usage is for medical machines and testing. Sterilizers use a lot of water in the process of sterilizing equipment and then there is filtered water used in kidney dialysis and intravenous fluids and finally the water uses in the laboratories and operating rooms, ending with the water use outside the facilities on landscaping and other building maintenance. All of these are water uses that no one even thinks about, we simply expect the service and give no thought to how much of our natural resources are used in these purposes to simply sustain life, and that’s just the medical part of the listing.Think of the hotels people stay in all across the country. Every room of the hotel has its own bathroom providing the water to shower, bathe, brush teeth, and other hygienic practices. Not only do the hotel patrons use a lot of water, so does the housekeeping staff in washing all the bedding and towels that are used on any given night. If the hotel has a pool area, they have water provided there too for a shower before getting in the pool and after you get out as well as the pool itself and all the pool towel laundry. Many hotels have extensive decorating in the lobby and mezzanine areas that have decorative ponds, fountains and waterfalls. While these are all beautiful to look at they also use a ton of water. Then there is the general cleaning and maintenance to upkeep these huge locations that house hundreds of people on any given night.After exploring the above high water use facilities it makes the lowly office building seem like minor water use facility. However, these buildings also use a lot of water in cooling, heating, restrooms and landscaping. They may have less people in them throughout a day, but they still use more water than the average residence. Schools, Colleges and Universities also use a lot of water in the restrooms, cafeteria, cooling and heating systems of buildings, kitchens and cafeterias with dishwashing and ice machines and these facilities usually have extensive landscaping that uses a lot of water. The main selling point of these campuses is how they look on the outside so elaborate landscape decoration and maintaining it is their priority. While budgets for colleges and universities are being cut, they might find it a huge savings to have an audit completed to see the water expenses they could cut.All of these are the examples of potential water waste that can be found in the commercial sector every day of the week all year long. There is so much that can be done to correct the waste and start our entire country on the road to conserving our most valuable natural resource. The beginning of the process is finding out where the waste is and then we can examine how to stop the waste. Committing to developing a water efficiency program and educating and involving the employees and public will help to further the process along. There are so many solutions to the problem including the switch to low flow restroom and break room fixtures. Conducting regularly scheduled leak detection activities and repairing those leaks are a constant on the plan. In 1991 the driest single year of the last drought, large urban water agencies used measures such as voluntary conservation, mandatory rationing, and extensive education and outreach programs to achieve water use reductions in the 20% to 30% range. It can be done; it’s a matter of settling it in our mind that we will do it and following through on it that gets the job complete. We need to all band together and do our part in conserving the water we must have every day for the rest of our lives. Remember the least expensive gallon of water for tomorrow is the one we save today.