LabRATS: Best Practices—Water

 

Water Conservation



Eliminate vacuum aspirators

Photo: Aspirator

Problem: Vacuum aspirators consume about 15 liters per minute and there are often vacuum pumps available for the same task. In water starved regions this does not make sense.

Solution: Use vacuum pumps that are commonly available in research settings. Ask your colleagues for one if not readily available.

Benefits: Some inconvenience in finding or purchasing a pump.
Cost: This will save 900 liters per hour of drinking water. Mechanical vacuum may be more reliable and stronger.

Reduce single pass cooling

Photo: Water Cooling

Autoclave wastewater and steam drain. The water and energy loss can be reduced with timers and water miser valves.

Problem: Water is often used to cool solvent distillations or the condensers in icemakers, etc. Be sure they are not running continuously, and there may be more efficient techniques. If left on for several hours per day at 0.2 lpm, over 50,000 liters per year of drinking water may be wasted in one lab

Solution: Install timers or rigorous habits to turn off cooling water. Some cooling water can be diverted to irrigation or to flushing toilets. Re-circulating systems may be possible using air-cooled water. When solvent still switches are designed, be sure to include automatic turn off of water valves when safety cut-off switches de-energize heating elements.

Benefits: Each lab with continuous flowing process water may save tens of thousands of gallons of water each year.
Cost: Alternate destinations for clean process water are easiest to implement during building design, and expensive to retrofit.

Buy chlorine free paper; recycle and reuse paper

Photo: Paper

Several reams of clean paper, clips and folders salvaged from drafts of one book.

Problem: Chlorine used in the paper industry can be a major pollutant of water and air, and is often implicated in dioxin formations. Paper processing is a major consumer of water. To understand the impact of paper you and the University use go to this calculator website:
http://www.environmentaldefense.org/papercalculator/. The State of California also encourages paper reduction and awareness of impact: http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Paper/ChlorineFree/Default.htm.

Solution: Purchase recycled paper with high recycled content using chlorine-free processing, or re-use single sided paper collected from drafts or overprinting.

Benefits: You will save the purchase price of reams of virgin or recycled paper. Collecting and reusing single-sided paper saves 200-600 ml water per sheet.

Cost: There may be some additional up front costs. The paper is indistinguishable from standard paper. Collecting used paper takes a simple set-up in a centralized location such as a copier station or computer room.

Use timers for water valves set to minimum necessary time

Problem: It’s easy to forget to turn off water that’s filling a jug or rinsing glassware..

Solution: Install or use timers on critical or continuous water uses.

Benefits: This will improve research quality by insuring that high quality water is available for all needs.

Cost: None if timers are installed. Some installation of timers and solenoid valves is needed.
Photo: TimersPhoto: Timers

Timers installed for four grades of water in the Bio II building.

Use the appropriate quality water for each task

Photo: Paper

Several reams of clean paper, clips and folders salvaged from drafts of one book.

Problem: When very high quality water is available, it’s easy to use it for all stages of washing, rinsing or reagent preparation. The energy and cooling water needed for stills can be considerable. (Get kWh and liters of cooling water used per liter DIW). An unseen water use is the salts and water needed to flush and recharge the DI cartridges.

Solution: Be sure to use tap water for bulk rinsing of dirty glassware and use progressively purer water with each step, as needed. Understand the chemical limits of contamination for your work and know your source water purity. Consult with your group about whether some lower grade water may be used for rinses or flushing operations. Consider soaking rather than continuous flushing.

Benefits: This will improve research quality by insuring that high quality water is available for all needs.

Cost: Very few when water quality is selected appropriately. Some time learning your building and laboratory’s systems and what the limits are for your work. Awareness of building systems always pays off.

Wash labware efficiently

Problem: A lot of glass and plastic ware needs careful washing. A lot of water may be needed for continual rinsing.

Solution: Wash smart and re-use as much equipment as you can. Rewash plastic, set up five basins: Soap and water; tap water rinse, two, five or ten percent hydrochloric acid rinse; two deionized water rinse basins. For more information, visit the the green washing page. Dry items in a 80-90 C oven if necessary.

Benefits: Save hundreds of dollars in materials and manufacturing impact of plastic, landfill reductions. Efficient washing and drying is not tedious.

Cost: Some counter space needs dedication to five basins. Change second rinse daily and replace with second rinse.

 


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