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July 29, 2016

By now, one would think we have heard all the ways that we could and should conserve water because of the amount of press given to this on-going drought. With an end that doesn’t seem to be in sight, water conservation should be on everyone’s mind. But it’s not. Why? Because not everyone cares. For instance, in most rental properties, tenants do not care about their water usage because they do not directly pay for it. Which begs three questions – How do you get your tenants to care? Why should this matter to them? And (most importantly) why should this matter to me, the investor or owner? The answer is obvious. Lowering water usage means lower operating costs.

So, where do you begin to help lower your operating costs while increasing property value and maintaining the return on investment? Start with ditching the money-sucking, resource wasting fixtures and upgrading to high-efficiency ones. There are so many fixtures in a home that are water hogs and they can be easily upgraded.  Showerheads and faucet aerators are easy upgrades that require little effort. But the biggest draw on a property that requires a bit more work is the toilet. Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toilets are roughly 30% of a property’s water consumption – and that can be even higher if you have a leak in your toilet. Current federal standards for a toilet is 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF) or less, and there are many options to choose from. But if you are looking to lower operating expenses and get the most out of each dollar, then why wouldn’t you want to pick the best available product with the best technology – especially if the cost is equivalent and the ROI is better. In fact, the lowest flushing toilet on the market flushes at only 0.8 GPF – that’s HALF of the federal standard.

A number of states and local utilities offer rebates for upgrading to high-efficiency products. Rebates can range in compensation from as simple as partial coverage for the cost of the toilet itself, to 100% coverage of the toilet cost, and in some cases cover the toilet and installation. Taking advantage of these rebates increases the ROI of your investment dramatically. However, if rebates are not available or you do not qualify, some manufacturers offer financing options to offset your initial out-of-pocket expenses so you can start saving immediately.

Other steps can be taken to upgrade more fixtures to help lower water usage. The EPA certifies a number of additional items that can be upgraded to improve water efficiency such as: landscape irrigation controls, urinals, pre-rinse spray valves and flushometer-valve toilets. Switching these out can be a little costly, but if your budget permits – it’s an excellent way to continue lowering expenses and upping value.

Now, if you’re not sure about your need for upgrading fixtures or what the expense might be, a simple water audit could be your first step. A water audit can be conducted to see if any leaks are occurring presently on a property while also investigating to see what areas of the property might show benefits by changing out old fixtures.

While a complete water audit can be a bit of an expense and extremely in-depth, there is a more monetary friendly audit that can be done to determine the water usage of current fixtures. A simple fixture audit would review all bathroom units to identify the true amount of water consumed by toilets , showerheads, and aerators. This test would also include checking for leaks from flappers, supply lines, flanges, and angle stops.

The final piece of the puzzle to truly complete an expense reducing effort is education. While you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make him drink it. You can install new high-efficiency fixtures, but ensuring that tenants are educated on the importance and impact of it can make or break your investment.

No matter where you start on your property, the ultimate goal is typically to capitalize on your investment. Simple changes, like reducing water usage, can sometimes be the easiest gains, but it can also assist in conserving our most precious natural resource.