An ideal case study on reducing water consumption
Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) oversees a large number of residences — approximately 14,800 units in 164 communities. In each one, OCH is responsible for covering the cost of water. Until recently, this was an especially burdensome expense, making up 43% of OCH’s utility costs. The communities’ 16,000 toilets accounted for the majority of the water use. Many units still had original fixtures — some nearly 40 years old. And there was little standardization in either the toilets or the shower heads being used.
Seeing an opportunity to save water and money, OCH decided to retrofit the plumbing fixtures throughout their portfolio. An important step in the process was getting tenant buy-in: because contractors would be entering tenant spaces, tenants had to be made comfortable with the retrofit process. Information about the retrofits and their benefits was therefore communicated by flyers and newsletters.
After testing various technologies in two of their high-rise buildings, OCH began the overall retrofit. Between 2011 and 2013, they installed water-efficient toilets, shower heads and faucet aerators in all 14,800 homes.
The benefits have been substantial and ongoing. Prior to the retrofit, portfolio-wide water consumption was 3.8 million cubic metres per year, at a cost of $11 million. In the year following the retrofit, consumption was down 42% to 2.2 million cubic metres, at a cost of $7 million. Furthermore, the new, more efficient shower heads and aerators save on natural gas. Adding to these benefits are fewer maintenance calls and, because standard fixtures are being used, easier repairs. Today, because of the retrofit, Ottawa Community Housing is able to redirect funds previously spent on utilities toward building improvements.