Water Conservation in Restaurants

Don’t allow your water bill to drain additional money from your restaurant’s profits. Many water-saving tips take little effort or expense, while some require a financial investment that often pays back over time. Regardless of your restaurant’s size, there are simple low-cost steps to save water and money.

Educate Your Staff and Guests

Conservation at your restaurant starts with you, but management can’t do it alone. It is important to share best management practices with your staff and encourage them to implement conservation measures.

Save More than Water!

Saving water has a direct relation to saving MONEY. Reducing water use not only drives down your water bill but also reduces your restaurant’s electric and sewer bills.

Tips to Save Water in your Restaurant

Pre-Rinse Stations

Low-flow pre-rinse spray valves are an excellent way to save water and money! These valves are designed to be more efficient than traditional valves and are now required by law (EPAct 1992, EPAct 2005).

Garbage Disposal

  • Whenever possible, scrape dishes using a scraper, squeegee or absorbent over the garbage can before rinsing and loading into dishwasher. This keeps food material and grease from going down the drain.
    Install strainers on sinks to trap food waste.
  • Control the flow of water to the garbage disposal with a solenoid valve that shuts off water when the unit is not operating.
  • Check with the manufacturer to determine flow rate for proper operation and make sure your disposal is not using more water than recommended.


  • Presoak pots, pans and utensils in basins of water.
  • Operate dishwashers only when there are full loads and shut off when not in use.
  • Check to make sure the dishwasher is not using more water than the manufacturer specifies, which could indicate a leak.
  • Evaluate the wash formula and machine cycles for efficiency. It may be appropriate to reprogram machines to eliminate a cycle.
  • When manually washing dishes, use the three-component sink for dipping dishes and equipment, instead of using running water.
  • In a conveyor-type washer, make sure water flow stops when no dishes are in the washer; install a sensing arm or ware gate to detect the presence of dishes.

Restroom Low-flow Fixtures

  • It’s recommended to install low-flow sink aerators if your faucet flows above 0.5 gallons per minute. To determine the amount of water flowing from each faucet, open the faucet to full force and fill a measuring cup for 10 seconds. Multiply the amount of water in the container by 6 to get the amount of water flow per minute. FYI: 16 cups = 1 gallon.
  • Verify that your toilets are low-flow by looking for a stamp or sticker (UPC or IAPMO) that indicates the gallons per flush. Toilets purchased after 1994 should be low-flow. Water-efficient and waterless urinals are also available.
  • Knowing how much water your restaurant uses on a regular basis and understanding your water bill are the most effective ways to save water. Seeing a sudden spike in your water bill could indicate a leak. Your search for leaks should start with your restaurant’s toilets.

Restroom Leak Detection

  • Leak detection tablets for toilets are readily available at most home improvement stores and are easy to use. After removing any color-changing cleaning product from the toilet, flush the toilet and place a leak detection tablet in the tank. Do not flush again. After 10 to 15 minutes, if the water in the toilet bowl has changed color, the toilet has a leak. Flush immediately after testing.
  • If you’ve discovered a leak, replace the flapper. The flapper is usually the culprit of leaks and is inexpensive and easy to replace. If the leak is left unattended for six months, up to 36,000 gallons of water is flushed down the drain — along with your money.
  • Most water meters have a “leak-detection indicator” (the small red triangle in the picture). This triangle will spin clockwise if water is going through the meter. During hours your restaurant is closed, turn off all water (make sure ice machines, water softeners and dishwashers aren’t running), then check the triangle. If it’s turning clockwise, your facility most likely has a leak somewhere. Often the leak will be a toilet flapper, dishwasher or an irrigation line outside.

General Building Maintenance

  • Read water meters monthly. Compare the results to the same month of the previous year. This will help to identify leaks as they occur as well as monitor your conservation efforts.
  • Reduce excessive blowdown from air conditioners. Check the level recommended by manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Use dry floor-cleaning methods, followed by damp mopping when necessary.
  • Consider changing window cleaning schedules from “periodic” to “as required.”


  • Consider using site-specific, low-maintenance plants and surround them with mulch to keep soil moist and reduce water runoff.
  • Water your landscape only when needed and early in the morning or in the evening when wind and evaporation are lowest.
  • Install a rain sensor device or other automatic shutoff device on irrigation systems and adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal changes. Irrigation systems generally don’t need to run as often in cooler weather or during the rainy season.
  • Consider using low-volume irrigation, such as a drip system.
  • Avoid runoff. Make sure irrigation systems are directing water to landscape areas and not to parking lots, sidewalks or other paved areas.
  • Check your irrigation system for leaks and broken heads at least every two weeks.
  • For more information on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, visit WaterMatters.org/Yards/.

Miscellaneous Tips 

  • Serve water only upon request and ask before refilling. An 8-ounce glass of water will need an additional 16 ounces of water to clean the glass.
  • Locate water heaters as close to the point(s) of use as possible. This will conserve water that is lost while waiting for hot water to come to the tap. Also, make sure heaters and all pipes are insulated.
  • Check with your utility company for rebates or incentives that may be available for water-saving appliances or fixtures.
  • As appliances or fixtures wear out, replace them with water- and energy-saving models.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following organizations in the development of this content: San Francisco Green Business Program, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and the City of St. Petersburg, Florida.