The Future Of Water: Paying More To Use Less?
When it comes to water shortages and the issue of water stress and scarcity, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we’ll be spared such concerns here in the UK. After all, it rains an awful lot of the time so, even with climate change and hotter, drier summers putting pressure on resources, surely the impacts will be relatively small and short-lived.
Unfortunately, it seems that this is unlikely to be the case. Experts have been predicting for some time now that water shortages are sure to come our way in as little as seven years’ time, in line with the changing climate and population growth, both of which will put increasing amounts of pressure on already-dwindling resources.
The summer of 2022 was a long and hot one, bringing with it prolonged drought conditions, the impacts of which are still being felt around some parts of the country, with water supplies never fully recovering between now and then.
And June 2023, only the very start of the summer season, saw mini heatwaves affect many regions around the UK, suggesting that the next few months could be quite rocky for water resources… and it may be that there’s insufficient rainfall come winter for rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers to recharge and replenish in time for next summer, creating a doom loop that we can never fully escape from.
What this means for local communities the length and breadth of the country is that they’ll likely have to pay more for water while using less of it, something that chair of the Environment Agency Alan Lovell has just put forward as one very likely outcome if action isn’t taken… and soon.
Speaking at the launch of a chalk stream restoration project, Mr Lovell said he always talks about reducing demand for water and, while this is clearly important to ensure that people always have access to supplies, there are other significant advantages that can be found, as well.
He was quoted by the Independent as saying: “Less capital for the reservoirs means more money can be put into clean-up, including less abstraction from rivers and less pressure on wastewater systems, all of which will help.
“But we’re very conscious that we are going to be asking consumers both to be paying more and using less at the same time. That takes us straight to the issue of trust in the sector. And I am banging on to water companies all the time about the need for that.”
What can be done?
The government has put forward plans to reduce the amount of water consumed each day from 144 litres per person on average to 110 litres by 2050, in a bid to find the additional four billion litres of water that will be required by then in order to meet demand.
Interesting research recently published by the Energy Saving Trust found that the average household will use 349 litres of water each day, with heating water the second largest source of domestic energy use (after heating the actual house)… something that only eight per cent of people in the UK were found to be aware of.
In terms of usage and consumption, showers were found to be the biggest water user in the house (25 per cent), followed by flushing the loo (22 per cent). On average, each person will take 4.4 showers and 1.3 baths a week, spending 7.5 minutes in the shower.
Issues such as these can be tackled by approaching water use in a different way, whether that’s by ensuring the washing machine and dishwasher are full before use or taking shorter showers using an eco-friendly shower head.
Informed choices about appliances can also make a difference, such as by investing in A-rated machines to drive down water and energy costs.
What is particularly interesting, however, is that having a water meter installed could make a significant difference to how much water is used.
The study found that 43 per cent of households now have a water meter and it’s estimated that these properties use three per cent less water than unmetered homes, which equates to around 72 litres a week – or approximately 3,700 litres per year.
It was also found that the greatest water-saving opportunities can be made in the bathroom (perhaps unsurprisingly).
It’s estimated that showers use over two billion litres of water each day, but this can be addressed by taking shorter showers and installing eco or low flow shower heads, which can regulate flow to six to eight litres of water per minute. Aerated shower heads can also be used to reduce consumption.
A typical household could save themselves £55 per year on their energy bills by making energy-efficient switches like this, while also saving a further £65 if they have a meter installed. Taking the country as a whole, if every power shower was retrofitted, the country could save up to £360 million on its annual energy bills!
What about businesses?
Of course, reducing water usage and consumption doesn’t just come down to the individual and, in fact, it’s perhaps more important for businesses to make this their focus since their water footprint will naturally be much higher.
Something that might be of particular interest is automated meter reading, where technology is deployed to monitor water usage continuously across a property.
This is also known as data logging and it has been found to be very successful in reducing water usage, allowing you to identify potential issues across your site so you can bring in the most appropriate water-saving solutions over time, in line with your changing business circumstances.
If you’d like to find out more about business water efficiency and how you can go even greener than you already have, get in touch with the SwitchWaterSupplier.com team today.