Document Type


Publication Date



Natural Resources Defense Council

First page number:


Last page number:



Reliable and adequate access to water is critical for businesses and their surrounding communities. Across the nation, water shortages are triggering growing concern and an acceleration of efforts to increase water use efficiency. Adopting water-efficient technologies and practices that reduce consumption holds great potential for commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) water users. Such measures can help stretch limited water supplies, save businesses money, reduce energy consumption, improve water quality, and protect local, regional, and statewide ecosystems.

In February of 2008, California’s governor called for a reduction in per capita urban water use of 20 percent by 2020, and the CII sector has a critical role to play in reaching this target. In California, CII sector water use is estimated to be 2.5 million acre-feet per year—or approximately one-third of total water use in California’s urban areas. The biggest water consumers in California’s commercial and institutional sectors include office buildings, golf courses, and schools. Commercial and institutional facilities combined consume close to three times more water than the state’s industrial users. Of those industrial users, oil refineries, food processing facilities, and high tech manufacturers demand the most water.

This issue paper will examine the range of potential water savings measures and practices, as well as their application in specific industries. In addition, we present case studies of water agencies and businesses across California to offer insights into how some of these programs have been implemented, the costs and benefits of the programs, and some of the barriers and challenges that water agencies and businesses face. Lastly, we offer recommendations for what water agencies, businesses and government can do to promote smart water efficiency practices and save water in the CII sector.


California; Water conservation; Water consumption; Water efficiency; Water use


Natural Resources and Conservation | Sustainability | Water Resource Management




National nonprofit environmental organization