The Impact of Water Waste on Carbon Emissions in the Built Environment and How to Minimize It
Thanks to technology, management teams now have a new generation of solutions for water sustainability and operational efficiency.
- By Yaron Dycian
- Feb 03, 2023
The Water Carbon Nexus
The world’s ongoing water crisis is real. One in four of the world’s largest cities is currently under water stress, and the global infrastructure for collecting, cleaning and distributing water is critically strained. We are locked in an ongoing struggle to maintain sufficient supplies of water in the face of increasing global temperatures and continuing worsening droughts.
Our strained water infrastructure is also a major source of carbon emissions. Water treatment and delivery in the U.S. account for 13 percent of the country’s total electricity consumption. In many municipalities, water is the single greatest energy investment. The carbon emissions related to water treatment, heating and distribution add up to an estimated 290 million metric tons a year—approximately 5 percent of total U.S. emissions and equal to the carbon output of more than 60 coal-fired power plants. In California alone, water-related consumption of electricity, natural gas and diesel fuel result in carbon emissions equal to seven million passenger vehicles.
Water and Commercial Buildings
Commercial buildings and facilities are responsible for a large percentage of that energy expenditure. In the U.S., 17 percent of the public water supply is consumed by commercial buildings such as schools, hotels, retail, offices and hospitals. Throughout the built environment, water is a largely unmanaged resource. Its flow is almost completely unmonitored and unchecked.
The result is that much of the water in buildings is simply waste. Approximately 25 percent of all water entering residential and commercial buildings, construction sites and industrial facilities is ultimately wasted. Moreover, poorly managed water can lead to exorbitant costs related to leaks, including property damage, remediation, lost business and increased insurance rates.
Water Management to Mitigate the Impact
Of course, challenges also mean opportunity. Proactive organizations are rethinking water management in the built environment and developing innovative approaches that offer facility professionals a unique chance to reduce water waste and carbon emissions while also saving money.
Better management of water is essential to ensure the efficient lifecycle of construction and building operations. It can also play a key role in helping organizations reduce their carbon footprint, save money, meet sustainability goals and address the long-term concerns of stakeholders and investors.
With innovative artificial intelligence (AI) applications and advances in machine learning and the Internet of Things, professionals in construction, real estate, property and facility management and other operational roles have new opportunities to mitigate water waste and meet sustainability goals proactively.
Advanced Technology at the Service of Water Management
Thanks to powerful, transformative technology based on AI and machine learning, management teams now have a new generation of solutions for water sustainability and operational efficiency. These advanced solutions support a building’s complete lifecycle, from construction to operation, by providing accurate real-time data on water consumption and identifying usage anomalies.
These systems function during all phases of the construction project. Adaptable, robust and modular, they grow throughout a building’s lifecycle, either as a direct transition from construction or as a retrofit to existing facilities. The most highly recommended options continue operating regardless of any communication or power infrastructure failures at the site.
Communicating over cellular networks and powered by battery, they can be deployed even before the internet and electrical infrastructure have been installed and can continue to operate in case of outages or service interruptions. Once the building is complete, the system integrates into the building management system.
Today’s solutions mitigate damage from water leaks and significantly reduce water lost to waste by detecting leaks, alerting the management team and automatically shutting off the water supply to proactively prevent damage.
Powerful Analytics to Save Water and Reduce Carbon Emissions
Data-powered water management solutions offer a way for companies to proactively respond to urgent climate and economic concerns by optimizing water usage. The powerful results of effective leak detection and water management technology solutions—protecting a rapidly diminishing resource and minimizing carbon emissions—demonstrate that such solutions can be an integral part of a successful sustainability strategy for today’s facilities.
AI and other connected solutions empower facility teams with vital information and analytics that can dramatically improve sustainability and reduce waste, emissions and inefficiency. By monitoring their water consumption and being able to analyze the history of each water event, facility managers and their teams are able to reduce overall water consumption and its related carbon footprint by an average of 20 to 25 percent.
The Story of the Empire State Building
Recently, Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT), owner of the Empire State Building among its larger commercial and retail real estate portfolio, implemented an advanced technological solution as part of its commitment to sustainability, healthy buildings and indoor environmental quality.
To achieve its water conservation and leak-protection goals, ESRT installed advanced water management systems throughout the Empire State Building, applying AI and machine-learning technologies to help building and facility owners and management teams avoid water waste and damage. With the systems installed, ESRT met several critical sustainability and financial goals for the property by cutting water consumption by 7.5 million gallons of water. The benefits added up to $100,000 in savings per year and reduced carbon emissions by over 300 metric tons. Within three months, the initial investment had been returned—much faster than what is typical for similar ESG and infrastructure projects.
The exponentially increasing urgency of water sustainability demands immediate, innovative solutions. Effective, intelligent management of water in buildings is a critical part of the effort to ensure future water sustainability.
Poor water management contributes to the global shortage of a critical resource, strains the world’s infrastructure and costs businesses and other organizations billions of dollars every year. Powerful, AI-based solutions for the challenges presented by water waste and leaks deliver real-world results that help organizations and the communities they serve.
About the Author
Yaron Dycian is chief product and strategy officer for WINT, a groundbreaking software company that produces artificial intelligence-powered leak detection and water management solutions. WINT serves some of the world’s largest organizations including technology, construction and real estate businesses. To learn more visit WINT at: https://wint.ai/.