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How Hospitals Can Save Water and Big Bucks Too

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 23, 2012

"We found and fixed major leaks. That is an important message. Every place I have been there have been leaks in irrigation systems, building mechanical systems, even plumbing fixtures that result in money going down the drain," he says.

Brennan says a "big offender" for water waste is irrigation. "Go on Google Maps in dry areas and you can see the lawn around the hospital is green like a golf course and yet everything around it is brown," she says. "Native planting—xeriscaping—and natural landscaping are the easy way to totally eliminate that water use. If you live in a desert or a dry area, you expect to see that kind of native planning. More and more people don't expect to see golf course lawns in places that are really dry."

Once water usage is determined and waste is identified, compare results with peer hospitals.

"In our case, we are part of a health system that includes 20 hospitals from Anchorage to Burbank" CA, Glass says. "That allows us to collect and share and compare information about how we consume all utilities. Several years ago we pulled that data and let everybody know where they stacked up."

Providence St. Peter and the local water utility in Olympia partnered in 2009 to replace 700 toilets, shower heads, and sink fixtures with modern low-flow alternatives. "That project cost us $192,000 and the utility paid 75% of the cost, which was $144,000. They paid us to do the work," Glass says.

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