How Grocery Stores Can Save Water

At Apana, we’ve helped grocery store chains small and large across the globe lower their monthly water bills and avoid water-related disasters.

It may seem surprising that water management is an important part of operating a grocery store, but these facilities have a range of water-intensive processes and equipment. Even small grocery stores use well over 100,000 gallons per month, and larger facilities average more than 350,000 gallons per month.

A grocery store’s specific water consumption and risk of waste events obviously depends on what departments it has, the equipment it uses, and the number of plumbing fixtures employees and customers have access to.

It’s also not uncommon for grocery stores to have issues with fixtures that are “out of sight and out of mind.” In one store we monitor, we discovered that the pressure reducing valves had failed on a hot water tank. The tank was behind a locked door, which was blocked off by equipment in a rarely-used room.

Here are some of the common ways grocery stores consume water.

Bakeries

Water is a common ingredient in bread dough, and it also plays an essential role in baking artisan breads. Proofing ovens and specialized bread ovens are staples of any commercial bakery, and they use steam to proof dough and bake bread. Continuously cleaning bakery equipment uses a lot of water as well. The scale of a bakery’s operations can significantly change how much water it consumes daily.

Meat departments

Handling and packaging raw meat requires constant sanitation. A single instance of contamination can have significant repercussions. Employees regularly sanitize surfaces and wash their hands, particularly as they switch between types of meat and tasks. And that uses a substantial amount of water over the course of the day. Quick thaw and defrosting practices that run water continuously can also consume a significant amount of water in a short time.

Garden centers

Plants need a generous supply of water. For facilities that have a garden center, watering represents one of the biggest areas of daily water consumption. And since these plants are potted, employees typically have to manually water them, which is one of the most inefficient irrigation methods.

Bathrooms

In any facility, bathrooms are one of the most problematic areas of water use. The more toilets, urinals, and sinks a store has, and the more customers use them, the more likely they are to have water waste events. This is one of the most common areas where we identify constant water flow issues like flooding toilets, running faucets, and hidden leaks. Left undetected, these problems can nearly double your daily water consumption in specific areas.

We’ve found that in grocery stores, water waste events in restrooms, including toilet failures, occur about 3.5 times per month, and sinks are left running about 4.7 times per month. One of the larger stores we monitor had a waste event originating in the bathroom every 1.5 days. More than half of all their water issues occurred in the bathroom. Left undetected, this store would’ve lost more than $1,000 per month from these common waste events.

A smaller grocery store in Oregon installed Apana to monitor water consumption in their general store operations, which included their employee bathrooms. The store’s regular operations used an average of 3,677 gallons per day, but a hidden bathroom leak in the wall was wasting an additional 2,880 gallons per day. At this particular store, we found 32 waste events over the course of a year—which comes out to about one event every 11 days. Without Apana, it could’ve been weeks or even months before they discovered many of these problems.

Food courts

Ice machines, soda machines, and coffee machines all consume a significant amount of water. Since they’re often located on top of hidden drains, they can also be a source of massive waste when leaks go undetected.

Store operations

“Store operations” is a bit of a catch-all term for when there are a variety of water uses running through the same water meters. Typically this includes things like the pharmacy department, photo center, bathrooms, and sanitation.

Cooling towers

In large industrial facilities, cooling towers use tremendous amounts of water to remove heat from equipment and machinery. Grocery stores primarily rely on cooling towers to keep their buildings a comfortable temperature for customers and employees. Large-scale HVAC units need cooling towers to provide air conditioning, and this represents one of the biggest areas of water consumption (sometimes 30-50% of the overall water bill).

We’ve found that evaporative condensers fail about six times per year. On average, these failures waste more than 17,000 gallons of water per day. One store we monitor would’ve lost $230 per day from evaporative condenser failures. Without Apana’s instant alerts, it takes an average of 15 days to find and resolve these issues. With our technology, it took an average of 1.5 days to fix them—but we’ve helped many stores catch and correct the problem in a day or less.

Let’s save water together

Every facility is different. That’s why we calibrate our installations and software to accommodate your facility’s unique needs. Apana monitors your water meters 24/7, scanning your water infrastructure and analyzing your water usage data for thousands of potential failure points. Whenever it detects something abnormal, you’ll get an automated alert with personalized troubleshooting steps to find the source of the problem and resolve the issue.

Here’s how it works.

Talk to an expert to see how we can lower your water bill and help your operation save water.

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