Water Wise


Water harvesting, recycling and installation of Sewage Treatment Plants are the latest conservation methods being adopted by hotels. Bindu Gopal Rao looks at the bottom line

Paradoxical as it may sound, of all the water present on the planet, only about .008% is available for human consumption. As such, the importance of conserving water can hardly be over-emphasised.

Increased water consumption is causing an alarming increase in gas emission by plants throughout the world, which is contributing substantially to the environmental pollution. Water conservation is more important in the hotel industry since enormous quantities of water are wasted everyday in hotels throughout the world.

C.B Ramkumar, founder and managing director, Our Native Village – a 100% eco resort at Hessarghatta near Bangalore says: “Water conservation is a core priority, because our very existence is based on this concept.” From the perspective of the hospitality industry, it is imperative that they take up the green cause with great commitment as this is a high natural resource usage industry and hence the heightened need to act responsibly. In order to conserve water in the hotel industry, it is important to identify key areas where water is used and could be wasted, for instance, in areas like the bathroom.

Vishal Kamat, Executive Direct, Kamat Hotels India Ltd: “There are several reasons for this wastage. From the guest’s point of view, when they pay for a night’s stay in the hotel, there is an implicit understanding that the water (and electricity) consumed by the guest has already been paid for since their room tariff includes these costs.

Therefore a guest is more likely to waste water (and electricity) in a hotel than their own home since the amount of water they consume is independent of their room tariff. At The Orchid, water saving devices are installed in the shower, flush and faucet to reduce water flow. For example, low flow showerheads and aerators in faucets are used which restrict water flow but increase water pressure.

Therefore these shower heads and faucets use less water than conventional ones and perform the same job. The flushes used are also designed to use less water than conventional ones. These flushes use five to six liters of water per flush whereas conventional ones use 10-15 liters.” Certain hotels also have automatic (touch-free) faucets. This type of faucet not only saves water but it is far more hygienic than manual taps.

Hotel chains are taking water conservation as a serious issue and have launched concerted programs towards this end. ITC Windsor thus operates in harmony with nature, and maintains a continuous balance with the eco system.

“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” is the environmental message sent out by every ITC Hotel. In 2006, Accor Hospitality launched the Earth Guest program with the mantra: “as guest of the earth, we welcome the world.” This program is divided into two projects EGO (linked to the human being) and ECO (linked to the environment). Under ECO, Water conservation is amongst the top eight priorities in environment conservation.

To limit the impact of its activities on the environment, globally Accor has committed itself to reduce of 10 percent of the water consumption of its establishments before 2010. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the management has undertaken a host of measures to reduce its water consumption in the properties, apart from measures undertaken to minimise its use of energy and other natural resources.

These measures have solved some water problems not just for the property, but also for the surrounding areas. Accor has also laid down set objectives for limiting consumption by sensitising employees and making the guests aware of the environmental issues. “Internal water audits are carried out to highlight high consumption areas and an action plan is formed to restrict the same. The key to our strategy is sensitisation and conservation,” explains Daniel Tannenbaum, regional director sales and marketing – India, Accor Hospitality.

Welcomenviron, by ITC Welcomgroup’s is another program by a hotel chain that defines its commitment to the environment.

At the Taj West End in Bangalore, STP water of capacity 210 Kl is used for gardening. All the renovated rooms are fitted with dual speed flush tank and taps are fitted with aerators to reduce flow of water. A regular preventive maintenance schedule is in place to detect the leakage of water and sprinklers are use for gardening before sunrise and after sunset.

Recycle and reuse

Hotels also generate a lot of wastewater from their kitchens, bathrooms, etc. This wastewater contains chemicals, oils and various types of residues, which are harmful for the environment. Since this water ultimately reaches the sea, it is harmful for marine life and affects the eco-system. Preserving water is very important and can be done through the use of a Sewage Treatment Plant(STP). The Orchid has a STP on site that treats all the wastewater generated in the hotel. The system is setup so that this wastewater can be reused for gardening and air conditioning. Any water that is not reused is sent to the municipal drain.

However, since the water has been treated, it is not harmful to the environment. STPs are now a mandatory requirement for all 5 star hotels. Incidentally, the Orchid installed its STP when the hotel began its operations in 1997, much before the requirement came into effect. The capital expenditure for a STP is high, but in the long run, a hotel saves money since it reuses water thereby drawing less water from the municipal corporation.

Tarunkumar Majumdar, Chief Engineer, Ista Hyderabad says: “At Ista Hyderabad, water conservation is a key philosophy we focus on and the guest is also given the decision in his room for optional change in room/bathroom linen if he/she so desires. Post treatment, the water from the guest rooms is used for horticulture and also for flushing in toilets in the guest rooms and heart of the house areas. Water harvesting is another aspect of the initiatives wherein we have seven water harvesting pits for collection of rainwater. We have installed water meter for almost every area and STP.  We monitor this on regular basis and from the reading it is evident that we are getting substantial amount of water saving after incorporating the water conservation measures. Also this year our bore wells have not dried up and giving a very good yield. That means the soil below is getting well recharged through our water harvesting pits,”

Rainwater harvesting then seems an obvious means to use water.

”In Our Native Village, we harvest all the rainwater from our roof tops and store it in a 84,000 litre underground tank. All the rainwater on the ground is channelled to a set of rainwater recharge wells that we have all over the resort. All grey water in the resort is sent through reed beds and used to again recharge the ground water. All the kitchen wash water is used to water plants. We are able to do this because, in the kitchen we do not use detergents but only shikakai and ash, so the water is fit for watering of plants. All the water that comes out when we vacuum our swimming pool is stored in a huge tank and this is used for irrigation of our farm. This is possible, because our pool is cleaned using aquatic plants and not any chemicals at all,” explains Ramkumar.

At the ITC Windsor, water restrictors for showers and taps, Gebreit water tanks for W.C.’s help save 40 percent of water and flushing. Sub metering happens to control consumption. Rain water harvesting and an auto urinal flushing system also help save water. A reverse osmosis plant is planned for using more recycled water for laundry.

“Our hotel’s effluent treatment plant is maintained and operated by competent trained people from supplier. Excess treated sewage water is supplied to Mount Carmel College for gardening purpose and is used for cooling Towers and horticulture and for washing of roads,” says Anil Chadha, General Manager, ITC Hotel, The Windsor.

Technology on top

While recycling and reusing may sound great especially for the environmentally conscious, there is a need for sound technology to support this. Thermax India’s STP- FAB Reactor is a new generation sewage treatment plant that uses less electricity and generates high yields of regenerated water.  An aerator is used in guest room and in heart of the house taps and showerheads.

Aerators mix air with water before use that increases the water volume and makes the water lighter reducing usage. Hydro-pneumatic systems ensure that constant pressure is maintained at all times in the all water outlets, irrespective of number of outlets being used at a time.

“Laundry is one of the highest consumers of water in a hotel, our laundry uses the latest imported Milnor Washing Machines, designed to wash with minimum water usage,” says Majumdar. Since a lot of wastage happens in the staff washrooms with water dripping, quarter turn taps can be installed as they need only a quarter turn to close the tap completely and the tap becomes drip less. Imported HACCP Sinks in the food production area ensures a limited water usage with timer taps. Auto Flushing guest and staff urinals’ are ones where the flushing is sensor operated. Contrary to the conventional cistern system this flushes only when the urinal is used. This ensures good hygiene and optimisation of water usage.

Explains Indranil Bhaduri- Director of Engineering Services, The Park Hotels, “water conservation is done in three methods. Storm Water Management where it is ensured that the storm water does not get mixed with the sewage water. Rainwater is the purest form of water and it is collected in open catchments and routed to tanks or recharge wells from which it can be further used and therefore increases the ground water reserve. This is called Rain Water Harvesting. Waste Water Management where the water is treated to improve its quality so that it can be reused without harming the environment. Sewage Treatment Plants treat the sewage generated by domestic use and Effluent Treatment Plants treat the water contaminated with chemicals coming from laundry and other sources. The treated water is utilised for different areas like landscaping for cleaning & plantations, cooling towers, flush lines for guest rooms etc. Reduction in Water Consumption – The consumption of water is restricted to the optimum level without affecting the guest comfort and thereby reducing the water wastage to a minimum. This is done by installing various low flow water fixtures in shower, flush and faucets, reducing pressure in water lines with regulating valves to reduce wastage. Low flow flush with 1.6 GPF have replaced earlier flow rate of 3.5 GPF. Low flow showers with 2.5 GPM have replaced earlier flow rate of 3.5 GPM.”

Dual flush system is introduced where the guest can select a low flow of 3 litres or a normal flow of 4.5 litres is a new feature in hotels. Water efficient equipments are used like dish washing machines in kitchen and washer extractors in laundry. Reuse of drain water from HVAC and reject water from Reverse Osmosis plant, monitoring of Cooling Towers to operate at optimum levels and towel linen programs by House Keeping to reduce the laundry load are all in place.

Sometimes water conservators are used along with plumbing fixtures to reduce the water flow. These conservators can be fixed with any fixture. They have different flow rates like 6, 9 and 12 litres per minute that limits the maximum flow through them. The Storm Water Management and Waste Water Management is planned at the time of the construction of the hotel but methods for the reduction of water consumption is implemented in running hotels in replacing fittings with retrofit ones. Water consumption for different areas is measured by flow meters.

Areas like pools, spas, laundry, landscaping and kitchen are where consumption is the highest and is monitored. The reduction in water consumption reduces the water intake that is sometimes purchased. This also reduces the running hours and electricity consumption of the treatment plants which is proportional to the water consumption. An emerging trend is that of using low flush or zero flush urinals and the use of UV filtration to save water.

Anjali Chatterjee, General Manager – Marketing and Communications, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group says: “We have installed low flow toilets and water less urinals and flow restrictors in sinks and showers. We also use STP treated water for irrigation, cooling tower purposes and to maintain the greens. Apart from rainwater harvesting, we have installed water meters to track the consumption and installed pressure-reducing valves in the lines that have low-pressure requirements. We use W/C’s cisterns with dual flushing arrangement used in place of conventional flush valves and have also installed VFD bases hydro pneumatic water distribution systems.”

Prem Thakur – Director of Engineering, Renaissance Mumbai Hotel and Convention Centre adds, “we are using the latest and most effective technology in the hotel. In the rooms we have a dual flush system and flow restrictors in all water faucets that reduces the flow of water. In all the public areas we have automatic sensors, which again help in reducing the wastage of water. We also have a state-of-the-art Sewage Treatment Plant, where the wastewater is treated, recycled and used for cooling tower makeup, flushing and irrigation purposes. A newly implemented technology is the NALCO treatment, which treats the water in the Sewage Treatment Plant. This technology enables online control and monitoring.”

The initial cost of implementing these technologies are anywhere between Rs. 70 – 90 lakhs. The dual flush and flow restrictors cost Rs. 7 – 8 Lakhs and the sewage treatment plant costs around Rs. 70 lakhs. The cost effectiveness of these technologies and measured according to the output, which is measured on a daily basis.  Cost effectiveness of such measures differs by country, hotel constructions and the technologies and water conservation devices installed.

“The expenses further split into costs that are associated with the construction at time of opening, such as installing efficient toilets which cannot be undertaken after opening and the equipments that are installed afterwards for example the flow regulators. Hence the cost effectiveness and savings vary in each hotel,” adds Tannenbaum.

There is a lot of pressure on hotels to start to show concern for the environment in general and to water in specific. “With more research is throwing up the fact that consumers show preference for a hotel that shows and practices environmental concerns and practices. This trend is developing slowly but surely. There are more industry bodies that are lobbying for these trends today than there were 5 years ago,” says Ramkumar.

The tangible benefits are cost savings. The savings in terms of material costs and water costs can be measured easily. However, looking at the bigger picture, it makes the hotel more environmentally friendly, and ultimately makes for a socially responsible corporate. If every hotel can take such steps towards saving and preserving water, the industry as a whole can reduce its water consumption, reduce its impact on the environment and have a positive effect on the community. At Ista, the saving is 80 kilo litre/day, which means Rs. 2800 @ Rs. 35 per kilo litre.

Adds Thakur, ”the tangible benefits of these exercises are measured on the basis of the amount of money it helps the hotel save at the end of the year. The STP helps the hotel save about Rs. 50 Lakhs per annum and the dual flush and flow restrictors’ helps in saving Rs. 10 – 12 Lakhs per annum.” Explains Chadha, “the cost of the installation of the ETP Plant is a One Time Cost.  We re-cycle water to the tune of 1,40,000 Kl per month and therefore save approximately Rs.3.15 lacs per month. Our hotel carried out distribution of “Drip Irrigation Kits” to our customers on the occasion of World Water Day.”

Improved water efficiency reduces water fees, using less heated water can reduce energy costs and reduced discharges help reduce wastewater flows and postpone the need for larger treatment facilities. At Accor Hotels, Water Conservation Awareness Program is being undertaken through posters, presentations and other communication tools across hotels.

The basic requirement then is to really curtail the unnecessary use of water. “We at The Lalit also include our guests to implement our initiatives. In every room we placed an information booklet highlighting water conservation initiatives and how they can pitch in for our guests’ reference and most of them appreciate this exercise,” opines Chatterjee. And as Thakur says, “it is a must for everybody to do their bit to conserve as much water as they can. A few years from now, water is going to be the costliest resource. In time to come there would be fights over water due to its scarcity. The alarming levels of Global Warming and the rate at which the water resource is depleting should be taken very seriously and measures should be taken by each and every one to conserve water for our future generations, we owe it to them.”

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