Key messages

  • Water efficiency benchmarks allow organisations to measure how well they are managing their water consumption.
  • Water consumption in Victorian public hospitals decreased by 13.6 per cent from 2005-06 to 2016-17.

Analysing water usage and developing water-efficiency benchmarks allows health services to measure how well they are managing their water consumption.

Water use trends in Victorian public health services 

Water use in Victorian public hospitals has decreased by eight per cent from 2005-06 to 2019-20. However, water use has been increasing since 2010-11.

This is likely due to a range of factors including increased patient numbers, changes in clinical practice (such as an increased focus on hand hygiene), collecting and reporting on data from more facilities, and a shift in the focus of sustainability programs to energy and waste. 

Portfolio water consumption 

Figure W1: Victorian public hospitals water consumption in kilolitres 2005- 2020 

As water use in hospitals is influenced by many factors, the department monitors water efficiency using multiple indicators. The three currently used indicators measure water intensity per floor area, per occupied bed-day (bed-day) and per separation.

In 2015-16 the department invested in a new online environmental data management system. The system increased the number of facilities the department collects water for, so data for prior years is not directly comparable.

Bed-days and separations 

Bed-days and separations are used as measures of hospital activity.

Occupied bed-days (also known as in-patient days) are the number of days of a patients hospital stays.  Bed-days, in this instance, exclude residential aged care bed-days.

A separation is defined as ‘the formal process by which a hospital records the completion of an episode of treatment and/or care for an admitted patient’. 

Increasing floor area

Between 2005-06 and 2019-20 the reported floor area of Victorian public health system has increased by 51 per cent. The increase in reported floor area is the result of new and expansion of health facilities, capturing of basement and multi-storey car parking and adoption of a new online environmental data management system.

Increase in floor area results in increased demand for water from air-conditioning, sanitation and direct water use, such as hand-hygiene, showering and toilets. Floor area figures represent gross floor area and excludes at-grade carparking. Multi-storey car parking is included where data is available.

There is a clear relationship between the increase in the number of treated patients, the floor area of reported healthcare facilities and water use. An increase in demand for air conditioning, sanitation and cleaning all result in higher demand for water.

Water efficiency 

Water efficiency within Victorian public hospitals is measured against multiple factors including floor area, number of bed-days and separations.

ince 2005-06 water efficiency of Victorian public hospitals has been improving. Water intensity has decreased across multiple measured indicators including floor area (kL/m2) down by 38 per cent, occupied bed-days (kL/bed-day) down by 24 per cent and separations (kL/separation) down 41 per cent. 

Victorian public hospitals water intensity

Figure W2: Change in Victorian public hospitals water intensity since 2005-06

These benchmarks allow organisations to measure how well they are managing their water consumption. They allow for comparisons over time and with similar organisations.