Calif. Hospitals Working To Cut Water Use Amid Severe Drought
California hospitals are working to reduce their nonessential water use amid an ongoing drought in the state, Modern Healthcare reports.
According to Modern Healthcare, U.S. hospitals in 2007 used about 133 billion gallons of water -- about 145,000 gallons per bed (Kutscher, Modern Healthcare, 5/13).
In January 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) declared a state of emergency over the drought and directed state agencies to take steps to prepare for water shortfalls.
Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency regulations calling for a 25% decrease in overall urban water use across the state, in accordance with an executive order issued by Brown last month (SWRCB release, 5/5).
While health care providers are exempt from many water restrictions, California's health systems have implemented several sustainability initiatives to lower their water use.
Details of Sustainability Efforts
According to Modern Healthcare, common measures being implemented by hospitals to save water include:
- Installing low-flow plumbing in bathrooms;
- Reducing frequency of outdoor common area pressure washings; and
- Planting more "drought-resistant greenery."
Kaiser Permanente, which has invested $15 million in water reduction efforts, cut its water use by 10% this year, compared with its 2013 baseline.
Meanwhile, Stanford Health Care implemented several changes after commissioning a study that found:
- 35% of its water was used in bathrooms;
- 28% was used in industrial processes, such as medical vacuum pumps; and
- 16% was used in patient exam rooms.
Stanford's sustainability efforts included:
- Decommissioning most of its decorative water features;
- Transitioning to steam sterilizers, which has helped save 10 million gallons of water annually; and
- Upgrading vacuum pumps, which has saved two million gallons annually.
Meanwhile, Sutter Health has:
- Combined its 25 hospitals' laundry services into one LEED-certified facility, saving an estimated 12 million gallons of water annually; and
- Implemented low-flow shower heads, faucets and toilets, which has reduced water use by 27% at Solano Medical Center, 16% at Davis Hospital and 13% at Amador Hospital.
Further, some health systems -- including Stanford and Sutter -- are constructing new facilities with conservation as a priority, Modern Healthcare reports.
As a last resort amid the drought, many hospitals have private water reserves that they can tap. However, no health systems interviewed by Modern Healthcare said such action was necessary yet (Modern Healthcare, 5/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.