Why Smarter Water Management Means Better Business for Hotels

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Why Smarter Water Management Means Better Business for Hotels

By Michael Johannsen, Ecolab Inc. - 11/26/2019

Water scarcity is an increasing challenge to the hospitality sector. But with careful planning and use of the latest technology, hoteliers can ensure top-notch service, save money, protect their reputations and keep growing their business – even in a drier world.

In more and more places around the world, water scarcity is becoming the new normal. Take the example of one luxury chain hotel in Pune, India. Following a recent drought, the municipality reduced its water supply drastically, so the hotel was forced to truck in water at great expense. The same thing happened at an even greater scale in Chennai, India. This summer, during a drought so severe that even tanker trucks limited their supply after the taps ran dry, most hotels in the city switched from serving meals on plates to banana leaves, which can be thrown away after use versus having to be washed.

India is not the only place where this is happening. The U.N. projects that the world will face a 40% freshwater deficit by 2030 if the global society keeps using water at the same rate. And it’s not just poor or traditionally water-scarce regions feeling the pinch. Even places like London and Southern Canada are facing water-stress issues.

The hotel business generated 10.4% of all global economic activity in 2018. With one billion people expected to join the global middle class by 2030, the hospitality industry is set to grow even more, and much of that growth will occur in water-scarce regions. With water scarcity mounting and travel growing, hoteliers everywhere are beginning to take water risks seriously.

Fortunately, there are things hotels can do to save water, build resilience and prepare for what’s ahead. Using easily accessible tools and technologies that exist today, hotel operators can identify their most at-risk properties and take measures to strengthen them. In the process, they’ll save money and energy – and shore up their reputation.

Where you are determines what you do

When it comes to water, no two places are the same.  London and Chennai, for example, both have their water challenges, but those challenges are different and require different answers. While Chennai faces failing monsoons and rapid overdevelopment, London is seeing steady population growth and hotter, drier summers interspersed with heavy rainfalls that overwhelm its sewer system.   

In other words: Where you operate determines which water issues you deal with and what are the appropriate answers. For example, two publicly accessible online tools, the Water Risk Monetizer and the Ecolab Smart Water Navigator can help hotel operators identify and address risk.

In most places today – and often even in the most water-scarce ones – water is underpriced. This inhibits action, because a low water bill means the perceived ROI on water-related investments is low. But in reality, the real value of water is not what’s on the water bill – it lies in challenges such as supply and service interruptions, higher fees and taxes, and reputational damage.

Saving water with technology

One answer to a lack of water is reuse and recycling. However, with each time water cycles through pipes, the risk of fouling, corrosion and biological contamination grows. Smart, connected water meters help alleviate that challenge by monitoring and adjusting water quality in real-time.

The hotel in Pune solved its challenge using Ecolab’s 3D Trasar technology, which shines UV light through water to determine what’s in it and automatically adds the necessary chemistries to make it fit for reuse.

The technology is connected through the digital cloud and backed up by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Based on advanced analytics and 24/7 input from thousands of systems around the world, the solution recognizes trends and predicts issues, so they can be addressed before they occur. That’s how the Pune hotel was able to switch from potable water to treated wastewater for its cooling system. The property was able to reuse 4.8 million gallons of graywater and save 1.8 million gallons of potable water.  

But these high-tech approaches are only one piece of the puzzle. Smaller-scale solutions, too, can help save significant amounts of water. Modern restaurant-grade dishwashing machines, which are equipped with smart sensors and highly concentrated detergents, use half as much water as prior-generation ones. No-rinse cleaning and sanitizing products ensure rooms and shared spaces can be kept spotless without wasting water. A low-temperature laundry program uses 40% less water and 50% less energy, and reduces linen replacement needs by 20%. That’s not just a financial win, but also an indirect water-saver, because it takes large amounts of water to produce textiles.  

Protect the climate – and your brand

Water scarcity challenges aren’t a far-off scenario – they are happening right now in hotel locations around the world. But in the end, that can be an impetus for more efficient overall management, because saving water means saving money.

While water in many municipalities is cheap today, it will likely not stay that way. And energy is expensive already.  Since it takes a lot of energy to use water (which has to be pumped, heated, cooled and treated), using less water means lower power bills, and using less energy means lower greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s an obvious boon to any hotel chain’s reputation, but it’s not the only one. If you operate in a water-stressed region, you don’t want to end up at odds with the surrounding community and be viewed as accommodating the water needs of travelers at the expense of local needs. This can have brand repercussions far beyond the region where the situation occurs.

But with smart water management approaches available today, hoteliers can save water, energy and money, preserve their brand’s reputation and ensure the best guest experiences. In a water-scarce world crisscrossed by an ever-greater number of frequent travelers, that’s a basic requirement for future success.

About the Author

Michael Johannsen is executive vice president and general manager, Institutional North America, for Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources.

In this role, Johannsen is responsible for Ecolab’s Institutional business in North America, which provides food safety and cleaning and sanitizing solutions to the foodservice, healthcare, hospitality, lodging, long-term care and commercial building markets.

Previously, Johannsen was executive vice president and general manager of Global Light Industrial for Nalco Water, an Ecolab company. Prior to this position, he served as senior vice president of Global Textile Care. He began his career at Ecolab in 1987 as a territory manager in Institutional.