A guide on water conservation 

You may have heard the Earth referred to as “the water planet”. In photographs captured from space, it’s evident that our planet is more water than land. However, only 3% is the available water on our planet is freshwater, and from this amount, just 0.5% is drinkable. This striking statistic provides a poignant reminder of the necessity for water conservation solutions. 

Next-generation technologies way for water conservation and efficiency, empowering individuals and businesses to make more informed decisions regarding our use of this precious resource. 

In this guide, we’re delving into effective technologies and ways to conserve water in your company and in the construction industry. Every effort counts towards a sustainable future. 

Understanding water conservation 

What exactly does water conservation entail? 

In simple terms, water conservation is about using water efficiently and avoiding unnecessary waste. The objective is to cut down on water usage without sacrificing vital needs like drinking water.  

Water conservation also plays a key role in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. According to this goal, conserving water helps to: 

  • Maintain ecosystem balance, preserve biodiversity, and combat climate change. 
  • Ensure a supply of clean drinking water for human life
  • Prevent overexploitation of the planet’s water resources, such as rivers, lakes, or wetlands. 
A pipe not conserving water with the city in the background

Water conservation in the construction industry 

Did you know that buildings rank among the largest consumers of water, accounting for up to 40% of global water usage? This fact coupled with rapid urbanization and population growth, estimated to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, underscores the importance of promoting sustainable water usage as a top priority for the construction sector to safeguard future water supplies. 

Water conservation in construction involves using technologies and strategies to reduce the industry’s use, distribution, and treatment of water. Water is crucial at every stage of construction, from making materials to maintaining buildings. It’s needed to extract raw materials, produce essential building materials like concrete, and for curing during construction.  

Curious about how the construction industry tackles this wet challenge? 

Sustainable water practices  

The construction sector is taking the challenge of water conservation to the next level by addressing it through the adoption of green construction practices. 

First of all, what is green construction? Green construction includes all the processes to make buildings and structures as environmentally friendly and unobtrusive to nature as possible. As the construction sector is a carbon intensive industry, green methodologies and solutions are playing a pivotal role in reducing the industry’s CO2 emissions. The main pillars of green buildings are: 

  • Design efficiency 
  • Energy efficiency  
  • Water efficiency  
  • Improved air quality  

Water conservation is a key feature that defines sustainable construction projects. Here are the main environmentally friendly techniques to conserve water efficiently in the building materials and construction industry: 

Rainwater harvesting systems 

Rainwater harvesting is a straightforward and effective technique for conserving water in buildings. It is the practice of collecting rainwater to reduce reliance on municipal water sources and promote sustainability by reuse. By integrating rainwater harvesting systems into a building’s design, main water usage can be reduced by 50-70%.  

This is particularly effective in infrastructures with permeable concrete, such as parking lots, where rainwater often flows away and is lost. Reused rainwater can be used for restroom flushing and cleaning outdoor surfaces in buildings. 

Greywater recycling 

In pursuit of water efficiency, construction projects are adopting greywater recycling systems. Greywater, originating from showers, sinks, and washing machines, can be treated and repurposed for non-potable uses.  

Segregating greywater from blackwater (toilet waste) allows buildings to significantly reduce their freshwater demand since this water can be reused. The main use of this reused water is for irrigating landscaped areas without the need to use freshwater for this task. 

Smart watering  

Drip irrigation systems ensure accurate water distribution for sustaining green areas within buildings. Opting for drip irrigation in construction projects provides improved control over water usage, leading to substantial water savings. This is achieved by accurately targeting watering in specific areas, thereby minimizing wastage in non-targeted zones. Implementing this method can save up to 60% more water than with traditional sprinklers!  

Sustainable building materials 

Embodied water is a key factor to consider in a building’s composition. Embodied water encompasses the water used for raw material cultivation and extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and a building’s construction. Surprisingly, a significant 92% of total embodied water is related to building materials production. 

Materials like concrete, glass, aluminum, and steel consume significant amounts of water and energy during their fabrication. For instance, concrete production alone uses 9% of water used in heavy industries. Opting for sustainable building materials such as recycled plastic or glass not only conserves water but also promotes circularity by reusing existing materials instead of manufacturing new ones.   

 An icon of a house that represents a building made with sustainable materials that will help water conservation

Innovative water technologies  

Recent technological breakthroughs such as Smart Water Management and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have revolutionized conventional water conservation methods, offering promising solutions to enhance their management in the construction sector. Let’s explore some of their main applications. 

Smart Water Management (SWM)  

SWM refers to the use of advanced technologies and data-driven approaches to optimize the management, distribution, and conservation of water resources more efficiently. 

Smart Water Management systems utilize cutting-edge technologies, including acoustic sensors and pressure monitoring mechanisms, to promptly identify leaks within water networks. This rapid detection capability facilitates swift repairs, effectively minimizing potential damage to construction infrastructures. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) 

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives, and water conservation is no exception!  

The use of AI with smart sensors in buildings for water reduction has become increasingly popular. AI tech improves water management by monitoring usage through flow sensors in residential and commercial buildings. The data collected by these sensors is sent to the cloud for analysis. AI and Internet of Things (IoT) devices provide real-time monitoring of water quality, consumption patterns, and environmental variables. This allows for designing efficient water use methods and controlling usage levels tailored to the construction project. 

Both technologies share similarities, but their main difference in water conservation is that AI serves as the technological foundation enabling smart water management. AI aids in data processing and decision-making, while smart water management concentrates on applying these capabilities to enhance efficiency and sustainability in water usage. 

A person in a suit with water behind him holding the icon representing water conservation.

Real example: Waterplan 

A recognized startup in Cleantech Construction Map 2024, Waterplan offers a water sustainability Software as Service (SaaS) platform to measure, respond, and report water risk, offering comprehensive water data, water expertise, and advanced technology to streamline operations and foster stakeholder alignment for impactful action. Waterplan’s solution has revolutionized water efficiency in the construction sector. 

This startup is also a member of Cemex Ventures Leaplab’s 2023 startup accelerator program and testing their solution in a 14-week pilot at Cemex’s South, Central America, and Caribbean cement, ready-mix, and aggregate sites, as well as Mexico’s cement plants. 

Cemex Ventures’ and its compromise with water conservation 

In the green construction category, Cemex Ventures is actively looking for startups offering sustainable solutions to redefine water conservation in the construction sector. We are committed to helping drive the sustainable revolution of the construction industry by investing in, partnering with, and accelerating Contech, Cleantech, & Climatech solutions. 

Will your startup join this lineup next? Stay tuned and apply to Construction Startup Competition 2024 under Green Construction vertical. Coming out very soon! 

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