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Water Conservation It’s Now or Never

Friday, July 12, 2019, 13:00 Hrs  [IST]

Water covers 70% of our planet, but usable freshwater is only 1%. A rising global population and evolving climate change have increased the demand for freshwater tremendously. Most countries with a high population, such as India, now facing a water crisis because of overconsumption, pollution, and inefficient usage. The hospitality industry has the dual challenge of not only ensuring the customer experience but at the same time attempt to reduce water usage and its wastage. Asmita Mukherjee dives deep into the water conserving mindset and efforts of the industry, along with understanding the presence and importance of building architects and vendors in the whole hotel water conservation eco-system.

Water consumption in India has been under the lens of the government for quite some time. Recently, the focus on water conservation by the Government of India received renewed vigour through the formation of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, which is the apex body for formulation and administration of rules and regulations relating to the development and regulation of the water resources in India. The formation of the ministry comes on the backdrop of the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) developed by The National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, to enable effective water management in Indian states in the face of a growing water crisis in India.

According to Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, “India has 17% of the world’s population, but only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. With just 1,544 cu m per-capita water availability, it is already water-starved. Major interventions need to be made immediately to make water-use sustainable, efficient and guided by a deeper understanding of how our water resources can effectively be managed for future generations”. The NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index Report published in 2018, also states that by 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss to the country’s GDP.

Such deep and directed focus by the government on water conservation gives a framework for the various industries in India, which should be implemented, if not already done.
The hospitality industry has the dual challenge of not only conserving its own water usage but also controlling the usage of tourists staying at their premises, as tourists have been known to consume 16 times more water than locals on an average, through a study. Such excess water usage by tourists has also led to numerous conflict of hotels with the locals who face extreme water shortages. “Hotels have a responsibility to use water judiciously in order to not create a disparity in water distribution among the local communities, as well as ensure sustainable supply in the future,” says Aldrina Fernandes, Environment Officer, The Fern Hotels & Resorts, Meluha The Fern an Ecotel Hotel.

Water is essential for the proper functioning of a hotel, which requires heavy quantities for guest comfort, hygiene, and food preparation. As hotels consume huge quantities of water regularly, it has become imperative for them to increase water conservation efforts. As Rishi Raj, General Manager, Kaudia Luxury, Kaudia Estate says, “Water scarcity is a recognised global problem, with demand for water increasing on a daily basis. At Kaudia Estate we have a strong moral imperative for addressing water conservation, as water is considered precious in the hills.”

Common water conservation methods
Hotels have identified sources that use water in the large quantity in order to effectively focus their water conservation efforts. Across most hotels, swimming pools, laundry, kitchens, and guest rooms consume the maximum water quantity. To ensure water conservation, The Westin Mumbai Garden City has reduced the guestroom flush tank capacity to 7 litres, from the usual 11 litres. Sallaudin Shaikh, Director of Engineering, The Westin Mumbai Garden City adds, “All our water faucets have aerators, reducing the water consumption by 50%.”

Jeyanth R, Chief Engineer, Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort & Spa also adds that his hotel has installed aerators to reduce the water coming through the faucets by mixing it with air. The aerator acts as a sieve, sending a separating a single flow of water into many tiny streams. This introduces the air into the water flow. In addition, because there is less space for the water to flow through, the water flow is reduced.

Most hotels have increased their focus on laundry water consumption. “For laundry, we use a suitable load washing machine for higher capacity and lower capacity for the washing cycle. Moreover, a lower capacity machine helps in saving water. The laundry wastewater is treated re-cycled water which is later used in the garden,” says Jeyanth. Shaikh echoes the focus of The Westin Mumbai Garden City on laundry by saying, “For laundry, we have an effluent treatment plant (ETP) where the entire water that is used in laundry washing is treated in ETP and retreated in Sewage Treatment Plants (STP), hence having zero water wastage.”

For efficient water resource management, the recycling of water and effluents is essential. Hoteliers are taking up the responsibility to recycle water at their properties through STP. Shaikh informs about the STP at The Westin Mumbai Garden City, “The entire water that is utilised by the property, is 100% recycled in our 450KLD STP plant. The STP water is used in Westin woods, cleaning the public area, in the flush tanks and HVAC, where a large consumption of water is utilised.” Talking about the steps taken at W Goa, Sanjeev Karanwal, Director of Engineering says, “Our hotel is designed on zero effluent discharge scheme so we are complying with the Government laws by recycling & utilising 100 % effluents from the rooms, kitchen, etc. within the property.” Adherence to the State Pollution Control Board and local regulatory authority limits of COD, BOD, oil and grease and ammoniacal nitrogen, can also be maintained by the hotels via correct recycling efforts.

Rainwater harvesting is another water conservation avenue that is being explored by many hotel brands in the country. “For rainwater harvesting, we have made soaking pits in our property which improves the underground water levels,” says, Sunirmol Ghosh - Managing Director Indoasia Hotel.

To monitor water usage at the property, many hotels have installed water meters which not only help identify areas of high water usage, but also improve efficiency. “We have installed sub-meters at all areas for proper monitoring of water usage,” states Chander Prakash Sharma, Chief Engineer, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla (IHG Group). Fernandes adds, “Post installation of a water conservation device, we can observe the reduction in consumption via metering”.

Hotel staff and guests become water warriors
Hotels today follow different conservation programmes to properly channelise their efforts and communicate it to their associates as well as guests. “Every guest gets a reservation confirmation letter by the estate CEO which highlights and presses upon the importance of water conservation urging them to participate and contribute to the environment. This is reiterated by the estate manager on their arrival at the estate. The butlers are also trained to sensitise the guests as and when they see the water being wasted by anyone,” informs Raj. As Sharma opines, “Creating an environmentally sustainable culture is very important in order to achieve water conservation goals. We have placed special tent cards in the rooms and public areas to make people aware of such good practices.”

Marriott International strongly believes and emphasizes on conserving the water in all its properties across the globe and has also set the target for all the properties to achieve a 2020 target, whereby each property has to reduce its water intensity by 22% by 2025.

Fernandes informs that at The Fern, communication of the management’s commitment to water reduction and the subsequent objectives and goals to all employees, in addition to regular training for team members so that they understand prudent utilisation of water is followed.

Architects and Vendors joining hands with hotels
Partnering the hotels in effective water conservation efforts are the property architects and various equipment vendors. Conservation to be successful has to start at the design stage and thereafter in selecting the right fittings and fixtures to support it. Therefore, it is of prime importance for the hotels to choose the correct vendors in order to be successful in their water conservation initiatives. Sanitaryware vendors too are coming out with products or modifications which nurture the water conservation efforts of the hotels. Pankaj Sharma, President, Johnson Bathroom & Kitchen says, “We have modified all our toilets and made them compatible with 4.5 L flushing in place of 6 L flushing thereby saving 1.5 L flushing with every flush resulting in a potential saving of 1.6 billion litres of water for the hotel rooms of India.”

Hansgrohe Group, with its two brands AXOR and Hansgrohe, has been known for its sustainable, water saving and carefully designed products for 118 years now. Gaurav Malhotra, Managing Director, Hansgrohe India informs, “We developed EcoSmart technology when the industry had started talking about the water-saving products. In EcoSmart products, the water flow rate is restricted to 3.5l/min and 5.7l/min in faucets and showers respectively. Despite being the lowest flow rates in the industry, the water pleasure is the same as a high flow product. Recently, Hansgrohe came up with PowderRain spray model, another initiative towards saving water in the shower. PowderRain is much finer than any other shower spray. The velvety-soft microdroplets wrap your body in a cocoon of water and there is minimum splashing. PowderRain saves up to 20% more water than other spray modes.”

Sandeep Shukla, Marketing Head, Jaquar Group, opines that convenience coupled with style is the trend explored by hospitality brands today. He informs that sustainability and innovation are the two principles on which all Jaquar Group products are designed. The Group has a variety of products that are efficient in terms of both water and energy such as Air Showers, Pressmatic faucets, Sensor faucets, Dual flush, and Sensor urinals. “The IFlush uses intelligent flushing mechanism that installs directly in the normal pipeline. It is a perfect upgrade to a simpler and smarter flushing mechanism and has multiple aesthetic and design advantages. It also provides a more appropriate mechanism of flushing by using the available water pressure to create better siphoning at the trap. The Bidspa is a toilet that on the one hand epitomises minimalist and ergonomic design, while on the other is a technological marvel. It must be plugged into a power socket before use. These bidet-integrated toilets are vastly superior in concept, more hygienic and environmentally friendly compared to the European toilets,” adds Shukla.

Architectural design also plays a critical role in making conservation effective. Ar. Abhigyan Neogi, Founder, Chromed Design Studio comments, “Every building constructed on land is a hindrance to the natural water conservation mechanism of that area. Hence, to support and aid to the process of water conservation, we need to enable and include design elements that promote it.”

Adds Ar. Love Choudhary, Founder, AND Studio, “There is also a special interest undertaken by some hotels to integrate water treatment facility within their design layout. While for landscaping, local plants that consume less water are being preferred. Overall a keen interest is growing towards designs that assist in water tapping and integrated systems are used that promote water re-usage.”

The building design elements associated with water conservation are being thought of, by the hotels before and during the construction phase, itself. Hotels in India strive for certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), with respect to green features in their building including water conservation, to bring themselves at par with international standards, which stands as a testimony to the importance assigned to building design by hotels in India. According to a survey by the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) India ranks third on its annual ranking of the top 10 countries for LEED certified buildings. “The smart building design is a necessity these days. Keith Menon, Co-founder, Spiro Spero says, “From ensuring a balance in insulation to making sure that rainwater harvested directly flows into the filter, to using leak-proof pipes – there is huge focus on water conservation while construction is planned.”

All the big brands are reusing and recycling water these days. Whether it be homegrown brands such as ITC, Taj, and Oberoi or international chains such as Marriott, Hyatt, Radisson, etc. Choudhary opines., “We are also observing a gradual rise in the importance given to water conservation by newer brands because of the cost saving component that is associated with water conservation.”

While water conservation efforts by hotels have been off to a good start mainly due to the efforts of big brands in India, what remains to be seen is the extent to which these initiatives are adopted by the smaller hoteliers. Although hotels understand the urgency to protect and manage water resources, a key aspect which drives the success is the true intent behind the adoption of conservation initiatives.

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