Smart Water Management Is Good Business

ST. PAUL, MN—It’s not easy being green. According to a survey from Ecolab and Greenbiz, nearly half of companies noted that they have no plan in place to achieve water-reduction goals. This is in contrast to 74% of companies stating in the survey that water is an increasing priority.

“The U.N. projects that if the world keeps using water at the current rate, we will see a 40% global freshwater shortfall by 2030,” said Emilio Tenuta, VP of corporate sustainability, Ecolab.

This projected shortage of available freshwater will impact the lodging sector in many parts of the world.

“With economic growth and rising incomes worldwide—we’re expecting one billion more people to join the global middle class by 2030—travel is growing and so is the hotel business, but much of this growth is occurring in water-scarce regions,” said Tenuta. “According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, hospitality generated 10.4% of all global economic activity in 2018. That means getting water management right in the hotel business has repercussions far beyond the sector.”

Among the most at-risk destinations are island nations, especially where the tourism season overlaps with the driest months. But they are not the only places that are feeling the pressure.

“Water scarcity is an issue around the world, whether it’s high-, low- or middle-income regions. We are talking about places like Bali, Indonesia, or Manila, Philippines, but also about Los Angeles or Dubai,” said Tenuta. “The bottom line is simple: The sector must come together and prioritize water. And smart hotel managers should take steps now to make their facilities water-resilient, so they can avoid trouble down the road. That’s especially important given changing consumer preferences. Travelers—especially millennials—increasingly prefer companies that do business responsibly, and that includes hotels.”

Ecolab provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, delivering comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiency in a wide range of sectors.

“Our field team of more than 27,000 associates are trusted partners at nearly three million customer locations in more than 170 countries,” said Tenuta. “At our hospitality customer sites, you can find us in most places around the building. Our offerings include food-safety and kitchen-sanitation solutions, cleaning products for guest rooms and laundry, pest elimination services, and water management for pool and spa and HVAC equipment.”

He added, “We are on the front lines with our customers in the hotel business, and we know the issues firsthand. And based on that broad experience, we can say that water issues will only become more important as a key to success in the business.”

Hoteliers are striving to be more eco-conscious. So, what should the industry know about conserving water and how it impacts their business? In essence: Smart water management is good business.

“If you save water, you also save money. That’s because water presents a real business risk to the sector. If you’re in a water-stressed region, your water bill may go up. You may also see tighter regulations and even usage restrictions. We know of a luxury hotel in India, for instance, that saw its water supply cut by the local government. It had to start trucking in water at great cost,” he said.

“Beyond the simple cost savings on your water bill, using water takes energy, because you have to pump it, heat it, cool it and treat it. That takes energy, and energy is expensive,” he said. “So, if you conserve water, you also conserve energy—and you lower your greenhouse gas emissions as a bonus.

“And, then there’s the reputational risk. If you operate in a water-stressed region, you don’t want to end up at odds with the surrounding community regarding water use, and be viewed as accommodating the water needs of travelers at the expense of local needs,” he continued. “This can have brand repercussions far beyond the region where the situation occurs.”

Ecolab offers two no-cost tools to help companies evaluate water risk and improve management of this precious resource: The Water Risk Monetizer and the Ecolab Smart Water Navigator. Lodging companies can use them to evaluate their properties anywhere in the world.

“The Water Risk Monetizer can help hoteliers determine the real value of water to your organization. You simply enter easily available information about your properties and their locations, and the tool will generate a dollar figure that represents water risk for each location, so you can make the business case for action to reduce water use,” he said.

“The Ecolab Smart Water Navigator complements the Water Risk Monetizer. Based on your inputs, it generates a practical roadmap toward smart water management for each of your properties. Based on how water-mature your locations are, it creates a step-by-step action program that is tailored to your geographical location and your specific industry,” he said. “Through a user-friendly dashboard, you can compare properties within your own company, and you can see how your company compares to others in the sector.”

In addition, Ecolab offers a range of products and services that can help save water at facilities, including no-rinse cleaning products, water-efficient dish machines, water treatment for pools and spas, and smart water meters that help reuse and recycle water in heating and cooling systems.

It’s imperative that hotel companies understand that water scarcity is a global issue, but solutions are local. Tenuta noted that a company’s water risk and what can be done about it depend on location.

“For example, smart solutions in an arid region are very different from a location that has enough water, but struggles with pollution issues,” he said. “It’s also important to know that it’s an issue of both water quantity and quality. To understand your risk, you have to look at each of your properties and ask: Are they in locations that are susceptible to droughts, flooding or torrential rains? What’s the quality of the water supply? What kind of regulations and pricing structures are in place? So, it’s not just about asking yourself, ‘How much water am I using and how can I use less?’ It’s about taking all these factors into account and determining how you can best tackle the challenge for each of your properties.

“But, perhaps, the most important thing is that you have to realize that the full value of water for each property is not the same as what appears on your monthly water bill,” he said. “Water’s full value is determined by risk: What can droughts, stricter regulations, potential price increases and brand damage cost each of your properties and your company as a whole? Once you determine that, you know which locations are most at risk and you can make more informed decisions on investments in smart water management at existing locations and new sites.”