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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Local hotels tapping EPA water conservation effort

— Local hotels are joining a national movement to cut water consumption with a goal of conserving 5 million gallons a year, beginning in 2016.

Unlike efforts involving guest decisions, like reuse of towels and linens, this water conservation campaign kicks the effort up, focusing more on operational changes at the area’s hotels and motels, said Bob Morrison, executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association.

The association is spearheading the campaign locally, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s not a glamorous effort. One of the major focuses of the EPA’s WaterSense program involves retrofitting water cooling towers used to run central air conditioning systems in the county’s largest hotels. That alone could cut water use by some 30 percent, Morrison said.

First up is the Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina in downtown Tampa. The hotel, with more than 700 rooms, has undergone a water use study and changes will help it reduce water consumption. Morrison said the association is collecting pledges from other properties in Hillsborough County with a goal of signing up at least 25 more hotels for the water conservation initiative.

Business operators can take several tacks to cut water use, one involving a bit of science and a Clearwater company. Terlyn Industries, an allied member of the hotel motel association, uses a polymer in the water cooling process to keep minerals from clogging the tower. This reduces the frequency of water changes, said Shawn Bray, who promotes the company.

“It’s kind of like making Kool-Aid for your kids,” Bray said. “You add one cup of sugar and you stir it and the water holds that sugar. But if you put another cup in, it goes away for a while, but then settles at the bottom. This treatment holds the minerals in solution for 50 times longer, so it decreases the wastewater down from 30 to 50 percent to 3 percent.”

Terlyn’s system is already being used at the Denver Water Department in Colorado. Also, the Denver Federal Center, one of the largest government campuses in the nation, has been using the system with great results for three years now, Bray said.

“We continue to increase the amount of savings in both water and equipment,” he said.

Water cooling towers have been used for years by operators of large buildings to save on electrical costs for air conditioning systems, Morrison said.

But we haven’t had a strategy to address the water use side until now.”

The Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, a 1,260-room hotel, used a retrofit to reduce its water use by 35 percent, he said. It is a proven strategy.

Participation in this program is voluntary and free to all hotels and motels that choose to participate. Those who sign up with the EPA will see how to assess their water use then learn steps to cut water use.

Morrison said the association will continue to encourage hotel guests to reuse towels and linens, through a program called Water CHAMP.

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