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How retailers can conserve water

How retailers can conserve water

Q&A with S. Petie Davis, sustainability manager for NSF International, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based independent testing and certification organization committed to environmental protection; public health; and water, food and consumer-goods safety discusses the future of the nation's water supply and offers water-efficient practices companies can use to conserve water and reduce water bills.

Q: In what ways does NSF International promote environmental practices to manufacturers?

A: We recently formed the National Center for Sustainable Standards to help industries move toward more sustainable practices and to create more sustainable products. NSF is also approved to test and certify products for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program. The certification aims to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for water-efficient products and services. We’re also developing a standard for wastewater treatment systems in commercial operations. Our standard advocates for the reuse of water that is normally treated as waste, such as gray water from the kitchen or laundry.

Q: Why are we now starting to hear more about water issues?

A: We are living in a resource-constrained world. While we can find alternatives for some resources such as oil and gas, there is no alternative for water. Water is one of our most precious resources, and as the global population continues to put pressure on existing supplies, the critical need for safe, abundant water also increases.

Q: Are we going to experience a worldwide water shortage?

A: Some areas of the world, including the United States, are already experiencing water shortages. Since rainfall totals in recent years have diminished, many countries have experienced problems with droughts. To help ensure that an adequate supply of water remains available for future generations, people are beginning to realize how important it is that we start today to pay more attention to how much water we’re using.

Q: How are companies focusing more on conservation?

A: Many manufacturers are using an environmental management–system approach to identify their primary environmental impacts. Resource use, particularly water, is often identified as an impact. By setting reduction and conservation goals, manufacturers are beginning to improve environmental performance. I’ve also seen an increase in companies pursuing LEED certification—a third-party verification that a building project is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to work—to demonstrate their commitment toward adopting sustainable practices.

Q: What can retailers do to support sustainability efforts? 

A: Retailers can do their part by asking manufacturers questions and buying from companies with water-efficient practices. Businesses with sustainable practices should have products that are easily available to consumers. It’s also important for retailers to think about how they can conserve water. The following tips from our website,, can help you to become more water wise and even reduce water bills.

  • Fix leaky faucets or toilets as soon as possible. To find out if a toilet leaks, put a small amount of food coloring in the fresh water tank. After a few minutes, check to see if any of the colored water appears in the toilet bowl. If it does, your toilet is leaking.
  • Operate dishwashers only when you have a full load.
  • If you have sprinklers in front of your store, adjust them so that only the lawn is being watered, not the sidewalk.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks.
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