Improved Water Management: A Business Management or Technical Issue?

01 Oct 2005Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: WME Magazine, by Stuart Moulder & Meg Webster, Energetics Pty Ltd.

An innovative six-step program helps businesses navigate the murky waters of apathy, resistance to change and lack of senior level support for better water management practices.

While many water utilities are running campaigns and increasingly enforcing water restrictions on the residential sector, few are working with businesses to counter their consumption.

Most businesses understand the positive effect water savings will have on the environment and water security, but there are significant barriers to implementing water conservation initiatives:

  • It is rarely seen as a critical business issue - with water costs typically only 1 - 2% of total operating costs and most organisations operating on a 2 - 3 year payback for capital projects, capital-intensive water conservation projects struggle to meet the hurdle rate.
  • The "hidden cost of water" is not properly evaluated - water charges are only the tip of the iceberg. Saving water can also reduce labour, chemical, pumping and energy costs (see figure 1).
  • Resistance to change - the lack of involvement of operations and maintenance personnel can slow implementation of projects, particularly when the recommendations involve a change in operating procedures.
  • Missed savings opportunities - companies that do not promote staff involvement cannot tap into the well of innovative staff ideas on water efficiency.

With these points in mind, Sydney Water has designed the successful 'Every Drop Counts' business program, which addresses water as a management issue as well as a technical issue within a firm. Empowering business to drive changes in its management practices, and complementing these with technical solutions, has proven strongly synergistic when used in a water management program.

The 6-step program is designed to reflect a suite of core principles:
1. Partnership agreement - gain commitment from senior management to save a minimum of 15% water and to appoint a "water manager" accountable for the target.
2. Understanding and improving management practices - use innovative management diagnostic, One-2-Five® Water (developed and delivered by energy and resource management consultancy Energetics) to translate water into management terms and win further commitment.
3. Benchmarking against industry peers - compare business practices with industry best practice and other Australian organisations through One-2-Five® Water.
4. Identifying and implementing technical projects - receive technical support, including technical audit, action plan and hands-on implementation.
5. Employee awareness - get resources and support to promote water conservation awareness amongst employees.
6. Corporate citizenship - helps businesses demonstrate good corporate citizenship principles to staff, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Step 1: Business Partnership Agreement

The program uses a business partnership agreement to outline the methodology of the program and gain initial senior management commitment to the program. It also asks businesses to elect a 'Water Manager' to be accountable for water management improvements.

Importantly, the agreement also specifies commitments made by the business, including their responsibilities and agreed timeframes for action. This is especially appropriate in multi-site businesses where the local management may be unaware of head office initiatives.

While some may feel a written agreement is threatening to the business, management teams have responded well to the principle. Businesses said they have found the agreement to be of value because it provides:

  • An opportunity to demonstrate to staff and other stakeholders a tangible commitment to environmental improvement;
  • An understanding of their responsibilities upfront;
  • A clear framework and pathway for improvement.

Step 2: Baseline Assessment

In preparation for the One-2-Five® Water diagnostic session, businesses are asked to gather information for a baseline assessment relating to water consumption and costs. It includes water and sewer volumes (kL/day), trade waste and costs for water, sewer and stormwater services.

Step 3.1: One-2-Five® Water Management Diagnostic

Business managers are engaged at an early stage in the program using the One-2-Five® Water tool. This aids implementation by ensuring management commitment to the outcomes and improvements of the water management program.

The diagnostic is a pivotal element of the program. Taking 1-2 hours to complete, it is applied in a facilitated workshop involving the senior executive team, typically including the site manager, finance manager, operations manager and engineering/maintenance manager. Based on 10 key areas (see figure 3) the diagnostic identifies barriers to improved water management practices, helping the business assess its strengths and weaknesses.

The key benefit is that the tool provides a short-term implementation roadmap with five critical improvement areas prioritised for management focus, rather than grappling with a myriad of issues. It does this by leading the management team through a series of yes/no statements at five levels of development for a series of management elements, which are then ranked. The One-2-Five® Water software automatically conducts a gap-analysis to define elements where least progress has been made and combines this score with the customer's priority weighting to come up with the top five areas for action.

A key success to this approach is that the business owns the outcomes. The facilitator's role in conjunction with the management diagnostic tool is that of a "change agent", allowing the business to identify its own critical actions. The business is then provided with other support through the Every Drop Counts Program's products and services.

Step 3.2: Walk Through Review / Water Audit

Following the One-2-Five® Water diagnostic session, a walk-through review or audit is conducted to understand and establish the business's water consumption patterns. This is the point in the program where identified management and technical critical actions are merged into one improvement plan to achieve the greatest success of continuous improvement.

Step 4: Improvement Plan

Businesses receive hands-on support to help them develop and agree an improvement plan that addresses water challenges at both a management and technical level.

Step 5: Implement Actions

Businesses receive support to implement the agreed improvement plan, establish practical operating systems and achieve organisational culture change and diagnostic milestones.

One critical area of focus within the program is employee awareness and training. Informed employees are more likely to accept change management initiatives, come forward with innovative solutions and play their part in maintaining the savings. To assist in this process a range of communication materials has been developed to promote business achievements, along with technical fact sheets and brochures offering water saving tips and advice, stickers and posters. Sydney Water also helps the businesses run employee competitions to further involve staff in the program.

The program also helps companies to address increasing demands for triple bottom line reporting by demonstrating their eco-efficiency achievements to external audiences such as investors, insurers, consumers and other interest groups.

Step 6: Review Progress and Results

After an agreed point in the program (typically between 12-18 months) a further assessment takes place to establish the position of the business following the successful implementation of the improvement plan. It then repeats the process beginning at Step 3.1 (One-2-Five® Water Management Diagnostic) to establish what improvements were achieved and to identify the next set of critical actions.

Case study - Wrigley's

Chewing gum company Wrigley joined Every Drop Counts in 2003. As a first step the management, including factory management, engineering and maintenance teams conducted a One-2-Five® Water diagnostic that identified five critical actions:

  • Demonstrated corporate commitment - includes water efficiency and trade waste on the agenda of operations meetings.
  • Reporting, feedback and control systems - develop regular water efficiency reporting that highlights variances in water usage versus target at cost-centre levels.
  • Water supply, quality and reliability - implement water treatment processes to maximise the efficiency of water use and meet variable operational water needs
  • Operating procedures - establish procedures to maximise water efficiency
  • Operating budgets - allocate costs for water use, wastewater discharge volume and effluent loading to each major operational area.

Within six months it had reduced water consumption at its Asquith plant in Sydney by 50 per cent, or 60 kL/day. Specific management and project actions included workshops for more than 220 staff, sub-metering and revised operating procedures on water intensive equipment, KPIs for water versus production, using water guns, automation of clean in place systems, reusing heat exchanger cooling water and linking control of water usage in the cooling towers to production requirements.

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