Reducing Water Waste, Costs and Saving Money for Organisations, Large and Small

Water efficiency was a big focus when the water retail market opened in England in April 2017. Since then, there has been some progress, but there’s still some way to go to achieve the full potential out there.

People working for organisations – both big and small – want to hear more about water-saving activities and targets – and are more aware of their impact on the environment. This provides a big opportunity for many businesses.

The focus on water efficiency for businesses and other organisations has been increasing in recent years – and will continue to – with a real and very tangible benefit of reducing running costs – while helping the environment too.

A recent study commissioned by Water Plus, the first water retailer to partner with Waterwise to promote water efficiency and innovation in the water market, identified that 67% of employees felt their organisations could be doing more to improve water efficiency. In addition to this, there are clear examples of where businesses can improve efficiency by up to 40% by reducing leaks and changing their processes.

Nicci Russell, Managing Director of campaigning organisation Waterwise, the leading experts on water efficiency in the UK, said: “The research provides really valuable insight and illustrates why it’s so important for organisations large and small to think about their water use on their sites and in their buildings. There are significant savings to be made by businesses across the UK, along with the environmental benefits, from using water more efficiently. Water efficiency also helps reduce our energy use and carbon footprint – as using less water overall means less water that needs to be heated – and treated – so less overall needs to be supplied to sites.

“Waterwise is committed to increasing awareness around more effective water management so we’re all using water more efficiently, helping protect this natural resource, whether it’s at work or in our homes. Ultimately, there’s so much more we can all do. And the pressures of climate change mean we’re already seeing water scarcity across the UK, so the time to act is now.’’

How much can be saved through water efficiency?

Water lost through on-site leaks is one of the biggest areas for water waste in many businesses. In the last year, the UK’s largest water retailer Water Plus helped a large university to identify a 1,750 litre per hour water leak, so it could take the steps needed to fix it. This was possible after Water Plus installed 35 data loggers for the public sector organisation, which has repaired the leak.

However, awareness around roles and responsibilities in the water market and how organisations can take steps to prevent avoidable water loss – and potential water bill increases, still appears low. In addition to this, businesses should also ensure they’ve got plans in place should there be a water outage. And yet, a recent survey conducted by YouGov for Water Plus, found only 34% of large* businesses and 11% of small and medium-sized businesses have plans in place to mitigate a water outage. Almost half (46%) of the larger* organisations questioned and 39% of those that employ under 250 people – also said they had a supply disruption in the 12 months leading up to the survey.

Why do I need to look more closely at my organisation’s water use?

Businesses, community groups, charity offices and shops can waste thousands of litres of water a year through leaks they may not realise they have and – just like homeowners – they’re responsible for the cost of water supplied to their site, even if it’s lost through a leak.

Small steps, when it comes to saving water, can make a big difference. Water-saving devices including flush-savers in toilets, aerators on taps and showers, if you have them at your site, urinal controllers and even waterless urinals, using rainwater for toilets, can all contribute to less water being used and lower water bill costs.

Between January and the start of August 2019, a number of Water Plus multi-site customers have invested in data logging and identified savings of more than £100,000 a year from constant water loss.

What else can businesses do to improve water efficiency?

For many organisations the best place to start is by conducting a water audit, looking at where and how you’re using water. And, particularly if you’re using water within your production process, then a process audit is also worth considering. Identifying whether water can be used more effectively can also lead to savings in your operating costs. 

Some larger changes to reduce the amount of water being used on-site may mean an initial cost for organisations, but the savings from using less water. less energy and from lower bills, and your carbon footprint, pays you back in a short space of time.

Andy Hughes, Chief Executive of business water retailer Water Plus, said: “Looking closer at the amount of water being used gives you the chance to identify where savings could be made. It’s also important to regularly look at the consumption on your site(s) to spot any large and unexpected increases, as this can help you prevent costs increasing from leaks. Having a plan in place for unexpected and sudden water loss on-site, along with seeking out good leak detection and repair services, are also essential to gaining control over your business water use and for reducing water consumption and saving money.

“We’re all aware of water scarcity and we all have a role to play in ensuring sustainable supplies for the future. It’s therefore worth harnessing the people power you have in your organisation – getting them to think about the water they use at home and in the workplace; involving them in your water efficiency work. We know from a survey we commissioned, into employee attitudes to water efficiency, that 67% of employees felt their organisations could be doing more on water efficiency, so the willpower is there. Whether you have one water meter or multiple water meters, across multiple sites, exploring data loggers and benchmarking analysis along with water site audits is worth considering too.”

Where can I find out more?

Waterwise has published a new guide to the water market for organisations in England here – setting out why they should be expecting water efficiency services from their water retailer and what questions they should ask. It’s worth organisations speaking to their current retailer about any issues they may have, as well as what the retailer can offer them.

More information on the YouGov survey, commissioned by Water Plus, can be found here  and the results from the survey on water attitudes in the workplace can be found here. 

*businesses with over 250 employees