The benefits of water recommissioning

By Barry Glina, Residential Portfolio Manager, Monterey Park
Originally published in Building Blocks magazine February 2014

As owners and managers of industrial, commercial and residential buildings, Monterey Park has always focused on proactively managing operating costs. While many property managers focus on electricity and natural gas conservation, water consumption is quickly becoming a major cost, particularly in the residential sector. The City of Toronto water rate has gone up 133% in the last decade and is scheduled to increase by another 8% next year. The most effective way to minimize the impact of rate increases is to focus on water conservation. At 35 Confederation Drive, one of our larger residential
buildings (135 units), water consumption had reached 60,000 cubic meters per year ($178,000 at 2014 water rates). Water leakage often goes unreported and in some cases, such as a leaking toilet, tenants may not even be aware of the issue. Continual improvements in fixture efficiencies make staying informed about the latest technology difficult. Our water costs had increased substantially, but we faced a challenge in navigating the many conservation products and services available, and in deciding how to allocate our capital budget.

In early 2012 we were approached by Watershed Technologies, a Toronto company with over 35 years of experience in building energy and water conservation. After doing a preliminary review of our utility bills, Watershed identified 35 Confederation Drive as an attractive candidate for water
recommissioning and recommended a water audit to review our existing fixtures and assess the potential opportunity. While many audits are limited to a visual inspection, Watershed took detailed measurement of the existing plumbing fixtures in 15% of the suites. They also reviewed four years of our utility history, and installed special monitoring equipment to provide an hourly water consumption profile online, which helped assess water leakage.

The water audit concluded that we could be saving 11,000 cubic meters of water a year ($33,000). Almost a third of all faucets were found to be leaking and almost half had no aerator. Many of our 6 liter toilets did not have the correct early-closure flappers, increasing the actual flush volume to 10 liters. Showerheads also presented an opportunity, as many of the existing models had high flow rates.

After reviewing the results of the water audit, we opted to contract Watershed to implement the recommendations outlined in their study. There are a number of companies that perform water recommissioning in the GTA. You should consider several factors when you choose. Select a supplier that:

  • Repairs or replaces leaking plumbing fixtures, rather than those that only report.
  • Has experience optimizing 6 liter toilets and sourcing the correct flappers, noting that many companies (and perhaps your own maintenance staff) simply use generic toilet flappers which actually increase the toilet flush volumes.
  • Will install hourly utility monitoring as part of a water recommissioning project, to allow for the tracking of the results of the project from day one and make sure the savings do not erode over time. Be alerted of sudden increases in consumption, and can track increases in leakage over time.


The project was implemented in June 2012 and was completed in just over a week. Watershed worked with our site staff to ensure tenants were notified and informed of the project. After completion, we received preliminary results almost immediately and a formal written savings report a couple of months later. Ultimately we did end up saving 11,000 cubic meters a year, which will mean a reduction of $33,000 in our water bills for 2014. Our annual natural gas consumption also decreased by 40,000 cubic meters due to reduced hot water consumption, saving us a further $12,000 a year in energy costs. With a project cost of $16,000, we recouped the initial capital investment in months and are
now enjoying a significant improvement in our bottom line. Watershed is also helping us apply retroactively for an incentive from Enbridge for these natural gas savings, something which is possible because of the hourly utility monitoring system which was installed as part of the project. We are now looking at implementing similar water recommissioning projects at our other residential buildings.

Watershed Technologies has been conducting water tune up projects similar to the Save on Water program throughout the GTA for five years. In 2011, water conservation programs were implemented at 15 multi-family residential buildings ranging in size from 25 to 375 suites. Water monitoring showed significant savings and an average payback period of less than a year.

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