By Duncan Wilson
Friday Harbor Town Administrator
“With a few simple changes to our dishwashing procedures and one new faucet fixture, we saved about 14,000 gallons of water in our two commercial kitchens in the month of August alone.” This is welcome news when you’re responsible for ensuring there’s enough water to supply every tap in town.
Councilmember and business owner Anna Maria deFreitas is proud of her employees’ conservation efforts and wants other business owners to participate. “We heeded the Town’s warning to conserve water as we couldn’t know what rainfall the summer – and future summers– might bring and our efforts paid off,” she wrote.
DeFreitas and her husband David Pass own and operate two inns and a restaurant in Friday Harbor. A comparison between 2014 and 2015 revealed summer usage dropped 34,880 gallons with 21,400 of those saved from July 15-August 15. DeFreitas pointed to behavior change as key to their success, and was quick to note that it took time and teamwork to accomplish – especially since they were attempting these changes during the busiest season of the year.
The couple changed their dishwashing technique eliminating a constantly running tap and instead running dishes through sinks full of soapy water and rinse water before loading them into the sanitizer. Additional savings came when they switched out a standard faucet for a high pressure spray nozzle. The blasting power saves work and water. The faucet requires squeezing to operate so it cannot be left running. The third savings eliminated a kitchen shortcut – defrosting frozen food under a stream of water instead of in the refrigerator. Better planning eliminates the need for speedy defrosting. The fourth step was to repair leaky toilets. “Put a dye tab or drops of food coloring in your toilet tank then check back in 30 minutes to see if the color has leaked through to the bowl,” suggested deFreitas. If there’s a leak, they recommend replacing the entire mechanism rather than attempting small fixes that end up failing in the long term. Step five was to repair existing irrigation and add more irrigation to eliminate hand watering which results in excess runoff and evaporation.
Even though we’re going into a rainy season, these tips are relevant now. The issue isn’t whether we’ll get rain. The concern is getting enough. Trout Lake reservoir is ten inches below normal for this time of year.
Water conservation makes sense. Anna Maria believes businesses can have a positive influence on employees who might bring conservation ideas home with them. “Trickle down” water conservation. I like that. We encourage other community members to share their water saving tips and successes with us at Town Hall.
Voluntary conservation now could prevent or at least delay a need for mandatory water restrictions in the future. Conservation requires us to change our behavior, and behavior change takes time. That’s why businesses and residents should start working on this now even if it’s raining outside.