Water is so precious. It makes life possible on our planet. It is essential for human health and wellbeing, for wildlife, and for our economy. In the UK we use about 14 billion litres of water per day and will need 4 billion more by 2050 and is responsible for over 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. Despite this water is so often the ‘forgotten’ utility.
Climate change and population growth are putting increasing pressure on water availability. It is also vital that we urgently need to improve the health of the water environment. In order to drive change, there needs to be a strategic lifelong learning about the value of water.
The responsibility sits squarely with everyone as individuals, businesses, communities and leaders. The good news is that the consultation for the strategy has demonstrated a great deal of energy and enthusiasm from across the industry to drive change.
With the impacts of climate change becoming increasingly obvious, achieving the vision for a water efficient UK has never been more important. The UK has set a statutory water consumption target to reduce the use of public water supply in England per head of population by 20% from the 2019/20 baseline reporting year figures, by 2037/38.
For businesses, a corporate water strategy will identify and invest in actions that create brand value, increase water governance, secure funding for innovation and increase societal value through the reduction of carbon emissions. This approach positions a company within the solution to the global water crisis.
The strategy should be focused on reducing water demand through water efficiency, water reuse and reducing leakages in properties. There are also opportunities to engage with sustainable projects and to involve employees and consumers in programmes which support education and awareness of water issues. By framing of water conservation investment as contributing to business growth, private sector organisations will become actively engaged in solving water challenges whilst meeting the needs of their shareholders.
The key aspects of the strategy should incorporate clear objective setting, identifying accountabilities, education and the monitoring of progress. Strategies can include pledges to ensure that water use is considered for all building stock ensuring that future developments are water-efficient and all programmes of retrofit includes mandated water efficiency considerations.
There are also a number of practical measures that businesses can take at their premises to reduce water wastage including rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling, leak detection, replacement of water outlets to reduce usage. Measures including spray taps and the installation of low-flow or spray taps, and low-flow toilets will all improve the efficiency of water usage. If feasible, rainwater or greywater harvesting can also become a valuable renewable source of water with a few modifications, which can be treated and stored on site for use within the building.
In addition to this, every staff member and all building users should be encouraged to take an interest in reducing water consumption. Staff may benefit from an awareness training exercise to educate them on everyday habits to reduce water consumption which will extend into the out of work lives.
When it comes to water efficiency, even minor changes can have a positive impact on water usage. All businesses need to understand that taking care of the environment and reducing water costs are intrinsically linked and be more mindful about water usage in the workplace.