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Helping Correctional Facilities Reduce Costs by Reducing Water Consumption
By Robert Kravitz, President AlturaSolutions
Published: 07/15/2019

Prison wall

There are an estimated 2.1 million people now behind bars in the U.S. Further, it is estimated that it costs about $30,000 annually to confine each of these 2.1 million prisoners.

This makes prison operations very expensive and a significant burden on taxpayers. This is why correctional facilities throughout the country are looking for new ways to reduce costs, and one that is getting increasing attention is water.

We don’t always think about it, because water has been so inexpensive in this country for decades, but water/sewer costs for a correctional facility can amount to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

And interestingly, more water seems to be used in prisons – per person – than outside of prison. The average person in the U.S. uses about 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. However, in correctional facilities, the average prisoner uses about 120-149 gallons of water per day.

As to why the discrepancy, the only explanation investigators can come up with is because they can.

According to one observer, in prison, there is very little that an inmate can control. They are told when to shower – typically two or three times per week – when to eat, when to exercise and when to go to bed. However, they can always push a button and flush their toilets.

“We have people locked up in prison for making some bad decisions, and just because they’re locked up doesn’t mean they stop making bad decisions,” says Tom Norris with www.greenprisons.com.

“Historically, one of the things they’ve been able to control in those cells that have plumbing fixtures is the water. They jam stuff down the toilets, flood the toilets, and flood the floor, creating dangerous situations of water overflowing off of the fourth or fifth tier. They want to mess with the staff. They want to demonstrate their angst.”

However, all of this “angst” is costing a lot of money. Because of this, correctional facilities are beginning to take several steps to reduce water consumption in prisons. For instance, some older facilities still have toilets that use as much as 3.5 gallons of water per flush (GPF). These are being replaced with low-flow toilets that use 1.6 GPF.

Taking this a step further, new technologies are being added to these toilets so that they can only be flushed so many times per hour.

Further, hands can only be washed for 30 seconds before the water is turned off. No more letting the water run on and on.

And in Florida, the 900-bed Alachua County Jail has been installing waterless urinals. These have proven to help reduce water consumption tremendously.

In fact, the combination of low-flow toilets and waterless urinals has resulted in an overall 62 percent reduction in water consumption. The facility has gone from using about 36 million gallons of water per year to approximately 17 million gallons annually, a significant savings in water, which also translates into substantial cost savings.

When it comes to reducing water consumption, the same thing that is happening in correctional facilities is happening in all types of facilities, both commercial and consumer. Steps are being taken to reduce water consumption and help lower water-related costs. The installation of low-flow toilets and waterless urinals appear to be two of the most noteworthy ways this can be accomplished.

Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and correctional industries.


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