How Hospitals Can Save Water and Big Bucks Too

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 23, 2012

The hospital installed a more efficient irrigation system for the campus grounds and moved away from plantings that required extensive irrigation. The water-cooled equipment in the air conditioning plant—the single largest user of water at most hospitals—was swapped out for air-cooled equipment. Refrigeration equipment and sterilizers were retrofitted for efficiency. The cafeteria's massive dishwasher was replaced with a newer model, and the garbage disposal was eliminated.

The garbage disposal "used a tremendous amount of water to flush food down the drain, so we went to a food collection system in lieu of that," Glass says. "We pick the food out of the waste stream before it could get chewed up and spit down the drain. We use a contained compactor. It is transported to the composter, cleaned, and returned. We have challenges for cleaning to keep that area sanitary, and at times it is not done as well as we like, but generally it's not a big problem."

Glass estimates that Providence St. Peter has spent about $500,000 on water conservation projects over the past decade, and has finagled about $1 million in rebates from the local gas, water, and electric utilities over the same period as part of the overall energy conservation plan.

"We are confident we can state that we are saving $700,000 a year as a result of all of these programs that we wouldn't have saved if we were doing business the way we were in 1998," Glass says. "At times there are dual benefits. Electrical pumping energy is reduced when you don't have as much water flow. We have an 11-story tower and we have to pump to get water to the 11th floor. When we use a fraction of the water we were using, that is less pumping energy."

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