The U.S. and the world at large are experiencing an unprecedented crisis in freshwater scarcity. While headlines focus on the disturbing images like the drying Colorado River, large swaths of the American Midwest, Southwest and west coast have been experiencing severe droughts for years. There are many methods to consider that will decrease your company’s reliance on fresh water while protecting your wallet.
1. Use non-sewage and graywater on site
With clean freshwater needed for drinking, you can turn to other sources of freshwater needed for construction, and a great option is non-sewage wastewater, also known as graywater. Graywater is any water drained from a house that does not come from a toilet, and in locales where local codes permits it, it serves to both reduce water usage and decrease the volume of water sent into the sewage system for treatment.
Since graywater is already relatively clean, it can be used across a building for “landscaping irrigation, toilet flushing and other non-drinking water applications.” You can also use graywater for building HVAC systems to eliminate reliance on treated freshwater. In many instances, structures will require extra piping for graywater systems, but it will eventually pay for itself thanks to the lower water bills it causes.
Rainwater is another natural resource that can be used for any non-drinking water. Rainwater collected on-site can be used for clean-up and dust suppression.
2. Keep an eye on your resources
Construction produces a lot of waste, and when the debris makes its way into freshwater sources, it can become toxic for the local community. Your company has a responsibility to mitigate and dispose of waste in the safest way possible to protect your workers and the local water supply, per federal and state regulations.
However, you can also pay attention to any materials that could be washed away in storm runoff. Sand and cement are culprits that can end up washing into drains and local water sources, and you should even ensure the streets and sidewalks near your construction site remain clear of these materials as the wind can carry particulates off-site. By covering the drains on and around your work site, you can mitigate runoff, prevent unexpected water pollution and limit loss of resources, like sand and cement.
To take environmental consciousness one step further, contractors can also implement additional measures like requiring the use of erosion control blankets, sedimentation ponds and silt fences, and for even more cost-effective and actionable measures, they can train employees “to pick up debris and trash, control erosion and sedimentation, maintain equipment and sweep streets around the construction site.” Training workers for proper clean up protects the environment and any additional costs that could be incurred from losing those potential resources.
3. Invest in equipment enhancements
Equipment modifications can be a huge asset to your business and the environment. Particularly in the aggregates sector, there are washing plants that are a direct answer to reducing water usage on the job site. These modular plants have a smaller footprint, reducing set-up costs and energy demands on water pumps.
Another worthwhile investment is in water tracking. Keeping track of water use may be required for any number of reasons, but contractors can also use this to their advantage. Contractors can scope a new job site before work begins. This is the perfect time to assess potential water needs. If it has rained recently, find areas that have more sediment runoff and keep an eye out for potential sources of pollution prevention failures. This step alone can save water usage and clean-up costs, then the job site is ready for true water usage numbers where you can find other areas of improvement.
Good for the community, good for business
When it comes to a global crisis like water scarcity, it can be hard to imagine how you can help solve the problem while maintaining the bottom line. As a construction business owner, you are uniquely positioned to see the results of your efforts clearly laid out in the impact you have on the communities where you work. By engaging in these green construction practices, you can continue to do your vital work, protect the community and save money.
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