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Southwest Florida Area Hotels Urge Guest Participation in Water CHAMP:
Conservation Aids in Ease of Drought and Saves Hoteliers Money

By Grace Gagliano, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 27, 2009--BRADENTON -- At the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, general manager Randy Paradine says he's cutting costs by cutting water usage.

It's just a matter of asking his guests to help.

Hotels throughout Manatee County are asking guests to consider reusing towels and bed sheets a day or two rather then having housekeepers pull them for everyday washings.

In fact, 36 hotels in Manatee County are among 456 participating in the Southwest Florida Water Management District's Water Conservation Hotel and Motel program.

The program, known as Water CHAMP, started in 2002 but has been gaining popularity as the Tampa Bay area's drought conditions worsen.

"We're just trying to watch all the water that we use, trying to make sure we're a green hotel," Paradine said.

With much of the Tampa Bay area under extreme water restrictions, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is trying to get more hotels and restaurants in its 16-county region to participate in its outreach programs.

"We've been in a drought almost four years, certainly right now conservation is very important," said Robyn Felix, spokeswoman for the water management district.

Restaurants and hotels each have a tailored outreach program.

Water CHAMP is designed to help hotels save water by placing education materials in rooms, and asking guests to consider having their bed sheets and towels washed every third day.

"Currently, 49 percent of all hotels in the district are participating in the program," said Amy Harround, Water CHAMP coordinator. "We've definitely seen growth each year."

Depending on their size, hotels can use more than 20,000 gallons of water a day.

In Manatee County, water rates are charged by meter size and per gallon use. A monthly rate for meter size starts at $7.14 for a meter that is less than 1 inch and goes up to $1,128.52 for a 12-inch meter.

Price per gallon is $1.69 for the first 6,000 gallons, and $2.11 for the each 1,000 gallons thereafter.

The restaurant conservation program, Water Pro, started in May 2008 and helps restaurants conserve water by making adjustments to service and appliances. Water Pro has 210 participating restaurants, of which nine are in Manatee County.

At Mr. Bones BBQ, owner Charlotte Mansur says the Holmes Beach restaurant saves water by regularly checking faucets and dishwashers for leaks and serving water to customers only upon request.

And when guests don't finish their requested water, the restaurant dumps the water into a bucket to water plants outside.

"Personally, I'm very concerned about the drought," Mansur said. "At my house I save water to use for plants; that's why I started it at the restaurant. It's hard to judge the savings, especially because water prices have gone up in the last month. But I know I'm making a difference."

Barbara Rodocker registered her hotel, the Bridgewalk, for the Water CHAMP program about eight months ago.

She made the decision after having the hotel's utilities evaluated to see where the hotel could save.

"Water was a big one," Rodocker said.

Since participating in Water CHAMP, Bridgewalk has implemented fewer washings for towels and bed sheets, installed water saver attachments to faucets and shower heads and adjusted toilet tanks.

"It is saving us a lot of water and a lot of cost," said Rodocker, who estimates the 78-room hotel saves between 20-30 percent on water a month.

Guest participation, however, plays a big part on how much a hotel will save, says Domaine Cherenfant, general manager of Comfort Inn Bradenton, which participates in Water CHAMP.

"We let guests know what we are trying to do to conserve water, and it's up to them to help us out," Cherenfant said. "Some guests care, some don't."

Cherenfant estimates the 70-room hotel, which joined Water CHAMP about two years ago, has seen less than a 1 percent water savings.

"It's a very little percentage," Cherenfant said. "It depends on the guests."


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