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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

Customer Service: 503-823-7770


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Conduct a water use survey

  • A water use survey (or water audit) identifies the quantities, characteristics, and uses of water at a restaurant. From the water use survey a water balance can be created which will help decisions on where to focus conservation efforts. 


  • Water-cooled single pass equipment – In many restaurants single pass water-cooling is used for: ice machines, refrigeration, freezing, ice cream, yogurt machines, and other similar equipment. These units can account for a significant amount of water use at the restaurant.  Air-cooled replacement models are available and can have a quick return on investment from water and sewer cost savings. See the Heating and Cooling Fact Sheet for conservation information.
  • Replace pre-rinse sprayer – Sprayers can use as much as 3 to 5 gallons of water each minute. Today, high efficiency low-volume nozzles use about 1.0 gallon per minute and are designed to remove food as effectively as or even better than their high flow counterparts. Get a free pre-rinse sprayer from the Water Bureau.
  • Dipper wells - Reduce the flow to dipper wells (troughs) for ice cream and butter scoops, and other frequently used utensils (Check with local Health codes for any restrictions). Or consider replacement with heated dipper wells that do not use a continuous water supply.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator rather than under running water.
  • Do not use running water to melt ice in bar sink strainers.
  • Turn off food preparation faucets that are not in use - consider installing foot activators if needed. Utensils and dishes - can be presoaked in basins of water, rather than in running water.
  • Use water from the steam table - instead of fresh water, to wash down the cook's area.
  • Serve water in bars and restaurants only upon request.

Ice Machines

  • Adjust ice machines  - to dispense less ice if ice is being wasted.
  • Replace an existing water-cooled model - with a newer, more water efficient EnergyStar air-cooled unit that can use 1/10 of the water. Some energy efficient air-cooled units use slightly more energy than their water-cooled counterparts (some less). Savings from water and sewer charges will outweigh any additional energy costs.


  • Wash only full loads in the dishwashers.
  • Check with the manufacturer - to see if dishwasher spray heads can be replaced with more efficient heads, or if flow regulators can be installed.
  • Replace worn spray heads and repair any continuous leaks.
  • For conveyor type washers - ensure that the water flow stops when there are no dishes in the washer. Install a sensing arm or other device that will detect the presence of dishes and shut the water off when there are no dishes on the conveyor.
  • Evaluate reuse of rinse water - for garbage disposer or scrapper trough.

Garbage Disposals (Grinders)

  • Where possible, eliminate garbage disposers, scraping troughs, and conveyers - In addition to saving water and sewer costs, this measure can eliminate costs of disposal repair and replacement and employee time devoted to clogs and other malfunctions.  Collecting and composting food can reduce sewer fees for Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG).
  • Reduce garbage disposal water flow - to minimum acceptable levels that still meet manufacturer recommendations.  Ensure that solenoid valves shut off completely, when not in use.


  • Use “boilerless” EnergyStar models - that recycle steam internally and use less than 2 gallons per hour compared to 40 gallons per hour for boiler type steamers. Boilerless units also use significantly less energy than conventional steamers.

Swamp Coolers

  • Maintain evaporative coolers regularly (twice annually) – many kitchens have swamp coolers, located “out of sight” on the roof, which can develop leaks and waste hundreds of gallons per day. 

Restrooms - 1/3 of Restaurant Water Use is from Restrooms

Additional Resources:

Food Service Technology Center (See Water Savings information) 

Contact the Portland Water Bureau - Business Industry & Government (BIG) Water Efficiency Program for more information: 503-823-4527