It’s officially been a dry winter in parts of England, and some water companies are looking particularly closely at their recharge possibilities for the summer. The impacts of drought on the economy, people and the environment are severe – and last year’s Water UK report, chaired by Anglian Water’s Jean Spencer, a key resilience leader in the water sector, set out that future droughts will be more severe, and will impact all parts of the country.
Wasting less water clearly has a huge role to play in tackling this. Indeed, water efficiency (and reducing leaks from pipes) has meant that for Anglian Water’s customers there is no threat of a hosepipe ban this summer.
The less we water we waste, the more there is to go round – and there are more of us using it all the time, and using it in different ways, too. So it’s vital that we’re water efficient all year round, day in, day out – not just when drought is in the news. Water companies have an important role in this – but so do all of us.
The water we use every day is the same water we had when human life first began (there’s no new water…) – and there are more of us now than there were then! Anglian Water and other companies are doing great work with their customers on water efficiency – including offering them visits to make their toilets and showers more water-efficient, as well as advice on how to waste less, and in some cases linking this to frequent smart meter readings to their phones. But these programmes are still a drop in the ocean in terms of overall water company investment in England and Wales. We want to see more!
Does water efficiency actually help customers and the environment?
Customers should be at the heart of the water sector, and engaging with them on water efficiency is a really great way for water companies to make this happen. Unlike with energy, when we’re using water, we can see and feel (and drink) it – and it’s this feeling we have around water, and its importance to our own families and communities, that companies should be tapping into.
We also know from companies’ own research that customers care about the environment in its own right – and not just for the water and wastewater services it provides them. So water companies across England should be working with all their customers on water efficiency, now and in the future, and not just during drought. It doesn’t just help with resilience, it also helps with other things customer care about – the environment, and better customer service.
What do we want? More water efficiency! When do we want it? Now!
Waterwise will soon publish a Water Efficiency Strategy for the UK, developed in consultation with the water sector and others, with delivery and actions shared between us. This strategy will set out what the world could look like if we all aim higher on wasting less water.
Waterwise is also part of the Blueprint for Water NGO coalition, which is challenging water companies to really increase their ambition on water efficiency – building on their great work to date.
This step change in water efficiency would improve resilience, customer service, affordability and the use of innovation in the sector.
We know the industry is taking resilience seriously, and Anglian Water is a great example of this. But all water companies can significantly step up their ambition on water efficiency to help them drive increased resilience – and an improved relationship with their customers.
There are loads of easy things we can all do to reduce our water waste every day – at home, in the garden and at work. This also reduces water bills (especially if you get a water meter fitted), and where hot water is saved, energy bills too.
Showers use less water than a bath, and cutting just one minute off your shower can save 8-16 litres each time. Dripping taps are hugely wasteful – losing around one full bathtub of water every 6 days – and often simple to fix. Use full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine – adding just one heavy item to the washing machine can save 5 litres each time it’s used. And don’t use your toilet as a rubbish bin – flushing one tissue you’ve used to wipe your nose can use between 5 and 10 litres of water.
Using mulch and bark on your garden can help to reduce evaporation by up to 75% – meaning you don’t need to water as often. Up to 80,000 litres a year can be collected from your roof in a year, so save this in a water butt and use it to water your garden. Garden sprinklers use 1,000 litres of water an hour, which is what an average family of four uses in a day, so if you must use one, just do it in the morning and evening – don’t leave it on all day. And don’t worry if your lawn goes brown – it will soon turn green again with the next rain shower.
Also, ask your water company how they can help you waste less water.
Finally, go and visit and enjoy your local river, stream or lake. Getting up close and personal with water will make you not want to waste it!