Talking Point: Could going ‘off-grid’ help hotels save water?

Hotels should look at ways to tackle waste water.

Decentralised water and waste water systems could save water and costs

It's not uncommon for hotels - especially on islands - to have their own off-grid energy to protect their business and reduce costs and carbon footprint, but could going off-grid do the same for a hotel's water footprint? In this Talking Point Ilan Wilf, Global VP of Sales for Fluence Corporation explains how decentralised water and waste water systems can help a hotel reduce its water footprint.

World demand for fresh water is projected to exceed supply by 40 percent by 2030, leaving a third of the global population in severely water-stressed areas. Hotels in remote or island areas could experience increased water shortages where it is common for water consumption per guest to greatly exceed that of the local population. Hotels and resorts can also present challenges for local wastewater treatment plants that lack infrastructure to handle the additional wastewater load. With unreliable water services, reputational risk, and, at worst, environmental and public health threats resulting from intensifying water stress for the hospitality industry, innovative solutions are crucial for protection of the environment and the hotel industry in a water-constrained future.

Decentralised water and wastewater solutions - on-site infrastructure that replaces or supplements centralised systems like sewers and wastewater treatment plants - offer small-scale purification and distribution help to mitigate water woes of the industry. Thanks to technological advancements and falling equipment costs, decentralised systems have become game-changers for the industry.

By definition, decentralised or distributed systems conduct, treat, reuse or dispose of water or effluent near the point of supply or source of generation. Decentralised water or effluent treatment can be an ideal solution for the hotel industry when there are limited alternatives. For example, in remote areas like small Caribbean islands, the infrastructure cost required to deliver effluent to a centralised facility is higher than the cost to construct a decentralised facility with a local network. Installing underground pipelines, even for a few kilometers, can be prohibitively expensive for many public agencies and hospitality businesses in the region. Decentralised infrastructure is a simplified solution that allows for faster implementation and reduced construction and operating costs. These small-scale, contained systems also mitigate environmental impacts by reducing the risk of pollution and contamination and easing the strain on local water resources with enhanced consumption efficiency. Additionally, their small, containerised nature means that they take up less valuable real estate.

In addition to lower capital costs and reduced environmental risk, decentralised wastewater treatment solutions reduce disposal costs and, in some cases, create a new water resource stream by making wastewater reusable. Instead of disposing of it as waste, reclaimed water can be used for irrigation or cooling towers through on-site, containerised distributed technologies. For potable water, desalination can open up a nearly unlimited resource that meets all of a hotel or resort’s water needs. While desalination is generally energy intensive, modern distributed desalination facilities bring a new level of efficiency to the process, with the best-performing systems reducing energy use by 90 percent as compared to large-scale conventional systems which often only reduce energy by 30 percent. This unprecedented efficiency drastically reduces desalination costs and provides the added benefit of avoided stress on the electrical grid in areas where it is already unstable.

Even with reduced capital and operational costs, many resorts and hotels find up-front expenses to be a significant barrier to adopting decentralised solutions. But along with innovations in water and wastewater technology have come innovations in financing. Resorts and hotels can finance distributed water and wastewater equipment through a long-term agreement with a growing number of technology companies. Installation and operation can be achieved with a monthly fee that is less expensive than a utility bill. In the case of financing or leasing, savings start immediately, while owned systems can deliver a full return on investment in just three years.

With low profit margins a reality of the hotel industry and growing consumer demand for more sustainable tourism, distributed water and wastewater treatment makes sense for today’s remote and island businesses because they provide the threefold benefits of lower energy costs, lower water services costs and more sustainable operations. While water shortages could become a problem – economically and technically – for hospitality more quickly than other industries, distributed solutions can empower these businesses to not just survive but also start on a path to sustainable success by lowering and fixing costs while boosting self-sufficiency.

Ilan Wilf is Global VP of Sales at Fluence Corporation, a global distributor of decentralised water and wastewater solutions across the complete water cycle, from early stage evaluation, through design and delivery, to ongoing support and optimisation of water-related assets.

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