Is it possible to have an environmentally sustainable and economic water supply?

‘Green’, ‘sustainable’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘eco’ and so on. Today, we have never been so aware of the impact of our daily actions on the environment and it’s true to say most of us have good intentions, but how can you “do your bit” in your laboratory?

One of the most common denominators in any lab is ‘water’. Water is used for a multitude of tasks including experiments and equipment cleaning to name just two. Therefore, if you can make your water as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible you are surely making a good start, right? Well yes but sadly, all too often, planet saving choices result in higher costs to us, so, can you really be ‘green’ and keep the accounts department happy at the same time? Let’s start with the costs of water production. 

As we all know accountants divide costs into two pots, capital and operational. Capital expenditure is quite straightforward to manage and includes visible and tangible, quotable items such as equipment, delivery and installation but the ongoing operational costs, or life costs, can be harder to forecast. Operational costs, such as pre filtration of the water supply, equipment consumables, utility bills for water and power, operational and maintenance labour are more difficult to predict mainly because they are susceptible to multiple variables. Those variables include items such as feed water quality, water usage and pressure, system monitoring, location of equipment, system design, quantity of pumps, cleaning and sanitisation, all these factors have a direct effect on your operational costs. The good news is though you are in control of more elements than you may think…

Two obvious focus areas provide opportunity for savings are power and water quality. If you take the time at the start of your project to ask yourself some pertinent questions you can identify and minimise some costs and environmental impacts, for example:

  1. Do you need pumps to run continuously or can they be switched on and off as required?
  2. How much would an auto standby feature save energy and noise?
  3. Is my system the right size for me and not too big?
  4. What is the efficiency rate of my RO membranes?
  5. How much water is wasted and goes straight down the drain?

Leakage and the subsequent flooding is another risk that will affect anyone trying to combine water, pipes and pressure! A leak of any size is never good news. At best you will waste money and precious water, and at worst you will flood your laboratory and cause untold and long-term damage. It’s remarkable how little it takes as well. A five-litre an hour leak (80 mls/min) would fill a bath over a weekend. 

But the good news is you can again mitigate these risks. Firstly, be sure to install and maintain your water system correctly, use professionals and do your homework to make sure you have got the right people, this is not a time to cut corners. Be sure to choose a system with an integrated leak sensor that will shut your system down if it detects moisture. It’s also advisable to install a further stand-alone leak detector for extra peace of mind.

Another factor that affects the running costs is the water quality that you select. Clearly the higher the water quality, the higher your operational costs will be so make sure to get just what you need and nothing more.

In summary, it’s true there is a significant and notable overlap between features that will save your own resources and features that will go a little way to saving the planet. However, aside from biscuits at break time, always remember the most important thing is the guaranteed flow of the right water, when and where you need it, that will keep everyone happy, even the accountants.