Sustainable water savings

Heron on Sawmill Creek

Herons are a common sight near Sawmill Creek on the Argonne grounds.

A new program to evaluate use of “once-through” water – water that is directly discharged after use and not recycled – has resulted in an annual cost saving of $68,000.

Argonne’s Facilities Management and Services (FMS) Division recently started a program to evaluate systems and equipment, such as compressors and air conditioners. Argonne uses about 150 million gallons of potable water from Lake Michigan per year. While much is used for restrooms, water fountains and kitchenettes, the vast majority is used for plant and lab applications such as cooling.

In 2010, FMS chartered Kent Oikle, a project specialist in FMS Building Maintenance and a licensed plumber for 30 years, to research recycling opportunities. Oikle identified 16 projects that can potentially save more than 50 million gallons of water annually. Oikle provided quick piping configuration designs, ordered the necessary materials and worked with Argonne mechanics and foremen on the installations. Using this low overhead approach, eight of these projects were recently completed at a cost of less than $20,000 and 27 million gallons per year in savings.

Water savings efforts provide several benefits:

  • Helping Argonne to meet federal facility water reduction goals (26 percent reduction by the year 2020 from a year 2007 baseline).
  • Saving one of our most valuable resources – water.
  • Saving the laboratory money. At a cost of more than $2.55 per 1,000 gallons of water, annual cost savings were $68,000, representing a payback of less than four months.

FMS is continuing the water recycling program in fiscal year 2011. Almost 30 additional recycling projects have been identified, mainly in the 200 area buildings, with several scheduled to begin in the next few weeks.

Posted Mar. 8, 2011