If you live in the western United States, you’ve probably heard mention of the word “megadrought”—a prolonged drought lasting two decades or longer. It’s a term we’re likely to hear a lot more in the coming months and years.
New research reveals that the drought in southwestern North America between 2000 and 2018 was the driest 19-year span since the late 1500s and the second driest since 800 CE. And it may be getting more severe: In June, 26% of the western US was in exceptional drought status—the highest percentage ever—while 96% of the west was suffering from at least some level of drought.
In areas under these conditions, water supplies have already been dwindling for years. Fresh water will only become more precious as the megadrought continues.
Commercial architects and engineers in the western United States—and anywhere else that may be affected by a similar drought—must know how to design buildings that use as little water as possible. And restrooms are the perfect place to make the greatest water sustainability impact.
Let’s review some of the water-saving commercial restroom technology that provides solutions as the megadrought persists.
Reclaimed Water Flushometers are a Key Technology
Why do we flush toilets and urinals with drinking water? With fresh water becoming a scarcer commodity, more developers and communities are considering a new approach—flushing with reclaimed water from rain, sinks, showers and washing machines.
San Francisco is a prime example—its code mandates that any new construction or substantially renovated structure over three stories must provide separate piping to supply non-potable water.
But most flushometers simply can’t handle reclaimed water, which can contain particulates like salt and minerals which can be more corrosive to zinc than fresh water.
Sloan’s Royal® Reclaimed Flushometer is specifically designed to handle reclaimed water, with diaphragm technology, synthetic rubber components, and high-copper, semi-red brass composition. It’s ideal for new construction or major retrofits with reclaimed water infrastructure—schools, stadiums, office buildings, transportation terminals, restaurants, hotels and healthcare facilities.
Savings from Waterfree, Hybrid, and High-Efficiency Urinals
Some urinals do not need to use water. And others use very, very little.
Sloan waterfree urinals require zero water, and if maintained properly will keep commercial restrooms free from odor just as well as conventional urinals. Using zero water is, of course, the ultimate in water savings, with the potential to save a facility thousands of gallons a year.
Sloan Hybrid Urinals are nearly as water efficient. They also use no water in normal operation, but automatically purge their pipes with water every 72 hours to reduce the chance of clogs. They use about two gallons of water per week, only require maintenance every three or four months, and stay clean and clog-free with almost no effort.
Conventional washdown urinals can also be extremely effective for water savings. Sloan offers several that can deliver top performance at just 0.125 gpf.
Dual-Flush Technology Adapts Water Usage to Need
Water closets require more water than urinals, but advanced, dual-flush flushometer technology can keep them as efficient as possible by matching flush volume to the type of waste being flushed.
Sloan’s Uppercut® manual flushometers let the user choose between pulling up for a smaller liquid-waste flush and pushing down for a larger solid-waste flush.
Sloan’s hands-free ECOS® dual-flush flushometers combine water savings with touchless hygiene. When the user stands up, the flushometer’s sensor “decides” how much water to flush based on how long the user remained in range. If it is less than a minute, the sensor initiates a 1.1-gallon liquid-waste flush; more than a minute initiates a 1.6-gallon solid-waste flush.
Ensuring no flush uses more water than necessary will be a cornerstone of megadrought water conservation.
Guided Handwashing Faucets: Ideal Hygiene Meets Water Savings
The COVID-19 pandemic made hygiene a higher priority than ever for commercial restroom users, many of whom trained themselves to wash their hands for a full 20 seconds every time they used the restroom.
But running water for 20 seconds during each handwashing sends an excessive amount of water needlessly down the drain.
That’s why the Sloan BASYS® Guided Handwashing Faucet is the perfect answer for both hygiene and water savings. Its digital crown readout gives users clear instructions through the five steps of correct handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry—and shuts off the water while the user lathers and scrubs.
Hand hygiene is crucial; so is water conservation. With a megadrought becoming a reality for many regions, commercial restrooms will have to achieve both hand hygiene and water conservation.
Need more information and ideas for optimizing water usage in your next commercial restroom project? Contact Sloan!
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