Become more water-wise during Water Saving Week 2023

In 2019, Sir James Bevan, the then Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, spoke at the Waterwise Conference and gave what became known as the ‘Jaws of Death’ speech. The title captured the attention of the media and for a brief moment, UK water security was headline news.  The ‘Jaws of Death’ relates to the image which appears in every water company’s business plan – a simple demand and supply graph – and is the point at which demand outstrips supply.  It is predicted that, on current predictions, that point is going to be reached in the UK within 20 years, with the South East – our most populated area, being the first to experience significant shortages.

This time frame is shorter than that set for many carbon reduction targets.  Whilst the requirement to cut greenhouse gas emissions has (quite rightly) received worldwide attention and action, the impending water crisis has remained ‘in the wings’ for most – bar the agricultural community – only becoming a focus of attention when the summer hose-pipe bans are put in place.

In the same speech, Sir James quoted Sylvia Earle, a distinguished marine biologist, who, in twelve words summed up why water security is such an important issue:

“No water, no life. No blue, no green. No ocean, no us.” 

And this is why we are urging all Investors in the Environment members to support Water Saving Week 2023 and take action to cut their water use – something which is easily done through the installation of even the most basic of water efficiency measures and/or some minor tweaks to everyday behaviours.

Why save water?

Saving water can have multiple benefits for an organisation, such as:

Cost savings:

Reducing water consumption can lower water bills and sewerage charges, as well as energy costs associated with heating water. According to the Waterwise website, a 20% reduction in water use can save a business up to 10% on its energy bills. Water saving can also reduce the need for maintenance and repairs of water-using equipment and infrastructure, and avoid potential fines or penalties for breaching water regulations or licences.

Environmental benefits:

Reducing water consumption can also reduce the environmental impact of an organisation. Not only will using less water help to preserve biodiversity, ecosystems and water quality, it will also reduce the carbon emissions caused by water treatment, distribution and heating.  According to the Carbon Trust website, every cubic metre of water saved can save up to 0.34 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

Reputation and compliance:

Water saving can also enhance an organisation’s reputation as it demonstrates social responsibility and environmental stewardship to customers, stakeholders and regulators. Water saving can also help an organisation meet its sustainability goals and targets, such as reducing its carbon footprint or meeting the requirements of compliance or certification schemes.

How to save water?

There are many ways a business can save water, depending on its type and size, water use patterns, and budget. These are a few ideas:

Conduct a water audit:

This is a systematic assessment of water use and wastage within an organisation. It can help identify where and how much water is used, how much is being charged, and where savings of both water and money could be achieved. Measuring, monitoring and setting targets and steps to reduce water use is a key part of the Investors in the Environment programme.

Fix leaks:

Leaks are a major source of water wastage and can cost a business significant amounts of money. Checking pipes, taps, toilets, showers, appliances, and equipment for leaks helps to minimise waste. Leak detection devices or smart meters to monitor water use can also be installed.

Install water-efficient devices:

Installing equipment such as dual flush toilets, water-less urinals, tap aerators or flow restrictors, trigger spray attachments, ozone washing machines or rainwater collection systems will help reduce water use without compromising on performance or comfort. More ambitious investments, for example, in greywater recycling could also be included as part of new build or retrofit works.

Engage staff:

Reminding colleagues about why and how to save water and report any leaks or problems is vital to success. Posters, stickers, newsletters, or meetings provide good ways to promote water-saving messages and goals.

Protecting water quality

In addition to reducing water use, businesses can play an important role in protecting water quality.   Reducing substances and chemicals used in daily operations and cleaning practices as well as preventing unwanted materials and stray objects from being disposed of down drains or sewers will protect the water courses on which so much nature depends.

To support these efforts, large-scale changes are afoot; details about some of the planned changes should be enacted soon.  Future developments and requirements will be discussed at our forthcoming webinar How Your Business Can Act To Protect Vital Water Supplies on 15th June, from 12.30 – 1.30 pm, featuring Dr Nathan Richardson, Head of Policy and Strategy at Waterwise. It is free to attend and is sure to spark some ideas about how your organisation can be more water-wise.