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Virginia Mason Medical Center uses a lot of water. It takes millions of gallons to meet the needs of sprawling operation that never shuts down.

But when managers took a look at the water gushing through open taps all over the hospital, they saw an opportunity to save water and money.

They purchased computerized cleaners that cut 50 percent of the water usage in the sterile processing unit where 52,000 surgical instruments and other items are cleaned and sterilized every day.

Then they did what the Environmental Protection Agency says we can all do to save water and money. They installed new water saving faucets, toilets and showerheads in the hospital and the two hotels on campus. They dedicated staff to finding and fixing leaks anywhere in the building.

They saved six million gallons of water last year, and they said Friday they expect to lose millions more as new programs and conservation measures take effect. The hospital fully expects savings to exceed costs of the water saving equipment.

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