Implement these water-saving initiatives today and do your part to conserve one of our most precious and scarce resources.
In the developed world, we take clean, fresh water for granted. Turn on the faucet and the supply seems endless. But it isn’t. The truth is that nearly one-third of the worlds’ people still live without access to safe drinking water, let alone access to water clean enough to be used in dentistry. And, if all of the world’s water were placed in a bucket, only one teaspoon would be usable by humans.
So, as part of our Campaign in support of World Water Day (March 22) and our “Save 90 a Day” challenge (get the most patients to pledge to turn off the water when they brush and win green dental products plus the recognition of your colleagues), here are our top 5 ways to save water in the dental office:
1. Water-free hand care. The CDC notes that, unless hands are visibly soiled, using a waterless hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is as effective as washing with soap and water. Doing this not only saves water, but avoids the need for towels that either have to be thrown away or washed. Many EDA members keep a bottle of sanitizer in every operatory and use the product in front patients before donning gloves.
2. Waterless Vacuum System. The shocking truth is that conventional dental vacuum systems (the machines that create suction) use between 350 and 500 gallons of water every day! DentalEZ, one of our corporate members, calculated that in a year, this is enough water to fill a standard-sized, 28,000 gallon swimming pool three times. We’ve determined that in North America alone, dental vacuum systems waste 9 billion gallons of water a year. The good news is that multiple companies have recently come out with waterless vacuum systems that are not only equally as effective, but use less energy to operate. Check our on-line product guide for models that have earned the EDA Accepted Seal and make this switch.
3. Water-conserving faucets and plumbing fixtures. All dental offices have faucets and many have in-office restrooms, and these present great opportunities for water savings. Low-flow faucets allow the perception that the same amount of water is flowing, but use only 50% the amount of water. Low-flow toilets also use about half the amount of water (1.6 gallons or 6 liters, compared to 3.5 gallons or 13.2 liters) and new technology has made them equally affordable and effective as standard models. Just changing out an old toilet can save 25 gallons of water a day, or 9000 gallons a year. Something to consider especially if you live in an area prone to drought or are contemplating an office remodel or build-out.
4. Water-Efficient Appliances. According to a study done by the University of Bonn in Germany, washing dishes in an Energy Star® dishwasher uses half the energy and 1/6 the water of washing dishes by hand. This means that a fully loaded dishwasher uses only 4 gallons per cycle, compared to as much as 24 gallons for dishes done by hand. Install one of these in your office and save not only water, but more than $600 a year by incorporating reusable “rinse and swish” cups instead of disposables and reusable water glasses in your reception area, adding an upscale spa feel.
5. Water-smart Landscaping. If your office includes planted outdoor space, use species that are native to your location. Native, drought resistant plants generally thrive with only natural rainfall, eliminating or greatly reducing the need for irrigation: according to one study, such plantings require less than half the water of non-native species. And if irrigation is necessary, be sure to check your system for leaks at least once a year (spring is a great time!), and install timers that allow shut off during rainy days (“smart controllers”), eliminating water waste.
What else are you doing to reduce water waste in your practice? Let us know!