Companies paying closer attention to water usage, handling

Water Technology

Spancrete's RePlenish pervious concrete.

Last updated on May 14th, 2019 at 12:03 am

Businesses seeking to reduce their environmental impact are looking beyond energy efficiencies and alternative energy sources to water – mainly, how their organizations deal with water usage and the water collecting on their property.

Innovative stormwater solutions receive the most attention as rules toughen regarding its collection. Two of the newer ideas being used are pervious parking surfaces and blue roofs.

Spancrete’s RePlenish pervious concrete.

For businesses with surface parking, figuring out what to do with water runoff from their property can be a challenge, with building a retention pond being the most popular choice. The addition of new porous pavement and pervious concrete options on the market may change that.

Over the past five years, Oconomowoc-based Wolf Paving Co. Inc. has seen more businesses, especially retail centers, move to porous asphalt. This technology allows water to flow through the asphalt into a stone bed collection area under the parking lot, said Sean Wolf, vice president of Wolf Paving Co. 

“Eventually, the water will move down through the ground and replenish the groundwater,” he said. “Porous asphalt allows businesses to be more creative on how to deal with water, plus it’s good for the environment.”

While it initially costs more to install, there are savings overall, Wolf said. For example, some local governments charge developers stormwater impact fees when water runoff from paved areas overwhelms the storm sewer system. With porous asphalt, the demand on storm sewers is reduced so the impact fee can be eliminated.

Developers also save money by not needing to install a retention pond or other stormwater management solution on-site. That land can instead be used for development.

Another benefit: No standing water – which is especially helpful in Wisconsin, where standing water can turn into ice.

For businesses that prefer concrete, Waukesha-based Spancrete Inc. developed RePlenish, a pervious precast concrete.

“The name says it all – it helps replenish the aquifer by allowing rainwater to flow through it to the groundwater below,” said Kimberly Wacker, vice president of marketing and communications for Spancrete.

Some businesses use a cistern-like system under RePlenish to use the collected liquid to water on-site landscaping or vegetation, Wacker said.

A stack of RePlenish pervious concrete.

“The pervious precast concrete allows some businesses to increase their parking space or concrete area,” said Wacker, adding Milwaukee World Festival Inc. installed some of the material at Henry Maier Festival Park, allowing it to expand the area covered by concrete, since the water was easily collected and placed back in the groundwater, versus treated as wastewater as it entered the city sewer system.

Both pervious concrete and porous asphalt require one bit of extra maintenance – they need to be swept or vacuumed off a couple times a year or else the small holes can become clogged, Wolf said.

For dealing with the rain and snow that hit a building’s roof, adding a blue roof is another option for businesses to handle water. A blue roof – not a green roof featuring plants, which is another option for handling water – has a structure that collects rain and rather than release it immediately into the municipal stormwater system, waits an allotted amount of time – about 12 hours – before slowly letting it flow down the drain spouts.

Blue roofs are relatively new, with few in the area. Mortara Instrument Inc. included one when it built its 64,000-square-foot facility in Milwaukee last year, as did Dominion Properties in its Sage on Prospect apartment building at 1825 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee.    

Internal water usage

For businesses using a lot of water, improved resource management can lower costs and help the company be a better corporate citizen. MillerCoors LLC knows the importance of managing water usage and is pursuing certification for the Alliance for Water Stewardship, an international standard, said Audrey Templeton, senior environmental safety and health manager for MillerCoors.

“Water is an extremely important ingredient for making great beer and we want to be good stewards of it,” Templeton explained. “We want to be transparent in our use of water.”

MillerCoors is the first brewery to work toward AWS, in which companies aim to align their internal production processes with an understanding of external watershed risks. Companies must demonstrate an understanding of their own water use, its context in the local watershed, and the shared concerns of water governance, water quality and other water-related areas, Templeton said.

After piloting efforts to better conserve water in Milwaukee, MillerCoors plans to extend the effort to other locations.

“We are continually trying to improve how we use water and the goal is to eventually reduce the amount of water used in each barrel of beer,” Templeton said.

Outside of beer production, MillerCoors is taking different steps to conserve water, such as changing the plant’s cleaning process so less water is used overall, Templeton said.

“We want to be good stewards of our resources and making these changes is one way to do that,” she said.

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