Conserving water can be a tricky business for entrepreneurs, especially in restaurant and hospitality industries. Some water use is mandated by strict health regulations, and upscale customers demand certain water-using amenities in their lodgings, features that often are required if the facility is to earn those coveted multistar ratings in travel guides and online services.
But the bottom line is another motivator to conserve: Higher water bills and surcharges can cut deeply into thin profit margins.
As homeowners haul gray water in buckets, take shorter (and/or fewer) showers and let green plantings go brown, many businesses also are doing whatever they can to cut back on water use during a fourth year of drought and a declared water-supply emergency in the state, county and North Coast communities.
Most or all local lodgings use 1-gallon or 1.28-gallon toilets and low-flow shower heads, and many motels and hotels that serve breakfast or brunch are using plastic or recyclable paper products in place of dinnerware, flatware and linens that require washing, according to Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce.
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Some local restaurants also use paper settings when they can, and only provide drinking water to customers who request it.
But imaginative entrepreneurs can find new and different ways to conserve the precious liquid.
For instance, Bram Winter of Cambria Pines Lodge ordered a compressed-air system to remove food particles from dirty dishes in the Lodge restaurant.
It’s a simple concept: Instead of using water to prerinse dishes before putting them in the commercial dishwasher, staff literally blows off the debris, using a nozzle that directs strong streams of pressurized air from a compressor. Winter said waitstaff scrapes the plates, and the only dishes that still require pre-rinsing are those with stuck-on food.
The ultra-quiet compressor was installed in an outdoor closet, and the air is piped quite a distance through a hose to the kitchen’s sink.
Winter discovered the concept from news coverage about a similar process at Post Ranch.
The Lodge system, bought for about $400 from Amazon, can be used on everything from fragile wine glasses to stock pots and sheet pans, according to spokeswoman Becky Evans.
Water conservation is nothing new for the Lodge, she wrote in an email interview. Since 2006, Lodge staffers have washed all bedding and towels with ozone-technology equipment that uses less water, electricity and gas. A large water tank is stocked with nonpotable water for irrigating the facility’s lavish gardens, using drip emitters. The main Lodge building has 1-pint-per-flush urinals; runoff from two ice machines is collected and used for irrigation, as is dechlorinated back flow water from the swimming pool.
But drought conditions don’t have to mean suddenly barren commercial, industrial or home landscapes.
Making gradual changes can have a big effect, as Nick Wilkinson and his parents Leslie and Kim Eady have proved in their nine-year revamping of about an acre of lawn into the present dramatic gardens and landscaping at Cambria Shores Inn on Moonstone Beach Drive.
Jan Moon, manager at Wilkinson’s retail nursery Grow, does detail pruning and maintenance weekly.
Drought-resistant double-dwarf bonsai fescue turf and succulent plants are rarely watered, maybe five times a year, according to Wilkinson. Irrigation of small portions of the garden is done with nonpotable water hauled in once a week, the same way many Cambrians are maintaining their home gardens.
But it’s how the plants are arranged and displayed that takes Cambria Shores’ landscaping to a new level, sometimes literally. Adelaide stone planters front the rooms and raise the plants up for a closer view, which makes them appear larger. Planters also form a viewing terrace off the entrance. Serpentine rock edging surrounds the planters filled with a variety of succulents that grow up, out and down. Oversized flagstone pathways meander through the lawn and down the slope.