California Meeting Facilities Work With Drought Conditions

A years-long drought in California has made water conservation a priority for convention centers and other meeting venues across the state. Here’s a look at how they’re managing.

California’s drought is in its fourth year, but when the state’s water board earlier this month approved emergency regulations to reduce water use by 25 percent in urban areas—marking the first time mandatory reductions were put in place—many realized how bad the situation had become. (Or, perhaps like me, you came across #droughtshaming on Twitter, where people call out their neighbors and celebrities for their lush green lawns and other water-wasting practices.)

Water conservation is a vital facet of our environmental initiatives and we constantly seek opportunities to invest in sustainable products, technology, and practices to reduce negative environmental impact.

While we’ve profiled association efforts related to the drought previously on, we’ve never taken a look at how meeting venues are dealing with it.  Here’s a glimpse at some of those efforts throughout the state.

Convention Center Conservation

Some of the largest convention centers in California have had water-conservation initiatives  in place for a while but are working to expand them. For example, the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) reduced water consumption by 7 percent in 2014 through an extensive program. Elements included replacing 80 percent of the center’s outdoor sprinklers, reducing irrigation by 33 percent, and updating its fire pump system.

“Water conservation is a vital facet of our environmental initiatives and we constantly seek opportunities to invest in sustainable products, technology, and practices to reduce negative environmental impact,” Brad Gessner, senior vice president of AEG Facilities and general manager of LACC, told Trade Show News.

After a recent volleyball competition, LACC had thousands of gallons of water on hand that were left over from court setup. It used some for its pressure washers and deep-tree watering and donated the rest to the Korean Youth and Community Center. KYCC used it for tree watering and graffiti removal.

As for next steps, LACC says it’s in the process of reducing its landscaping area by 30,000 square feet and replacing it with drought-resistant plants. The venue also plans to retrofit toilets with low-flush technology.

Further south in San Diego, the convention center has low-flow automatic sinks and toilets and outdoor landscaping that uses drip irrigation and drought-resistant plants and mulch to reduce watering [PDF]. Those efforts save more than 80,000 gallons of water annually.

Moving upstate, the Moscone Center in San Francisco has a goal to reduce water consumption by more than 10 percent per attendee. It plans to install hydration stations and eliminate presetting individual water bottles in session rooms and general sessions [PDF].

Hotels Handle Hydration

Hotels in the Golden State are also boosting water conservation efforts, especially since the latest set of rules ban restaurants, bars, and hotels from serving water unless customers ask for it. In addition, hotels and motels must have signs in rooms telling guests that they may choose not to have towels and linens washed daily.

Late last year, the Los Angeles Times highlighted the ways hotels are rethinking their green initiatives due to the drought. Among the changes: The Intercontinental Los Angeles Century City Hotel removed ivy plants from the balconies of all 361 rooms, replacing them with drought-tolerant succulents.

In 2014, the Intercontinental Hotels Group delivered water conservation kits to all 230 IHG hotels in the state. The kits included 12 faucet aerators to be installed in guest restrooms, as well as details on how hotels can actively participate in conserving water. More than 80 percent of the hotels have installed the aerators, potentially saving more than 7 million gallons of water annually.

Marianne Balfe, Marriott International’s director of energy and environmental sustainability in the Americas, told Hotel News Now that the water shortage has prompted operational changes at Marriott’s properties in the state. They include limiting irrigation and asking guests to go two or three days without fresh linens. Across Marriott’s properties worldwide, the brand reduced its water intensity—or water usage per square foot—by 5.3 percent last year.

The California Hotel & Lodging Association is also involved. On its Water Resources page, it describes how the new rules and regulations are affecting properties and offers members free cards that ask guests not to have their sheets and towels changed daily.

What other water conservation efforts have you seen in meeting venues in California and beyond? Please share in the comments.

California meeting facilities are working to ensure no drops are wasted. (iStock/Thinkstock)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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