A lot of people don’t realise that the water we all use comes from our local environment. In a lot of ways that’s a wonderful thing – in a world of globalisation and fiendishly complex supply chains, there’s something endearingly human about using a resource that comes from, and is returned to, our nearby aquifers, rivers and streams.
But climate change and population growth are putting our water supplies under more pressure than ever before, which means those same rivers and streams are in danger of drying up. The situation is so serious that the Environment Agency has recommended that the south-east, south and midlands should be classified as areas of serious water stress.
At this point I should probably reassure you; this is not an apocalyptic screed written to frighten and inspire. This is a local problem and, importantly, it has local solutions.
Changing behaviours can make a difference
Affinity Water is undertaking an ambitious demand management programme, bringing together the best in innovation, products, and services to help our customers waste less water. As part of this we’ve launched SOS: Save Our Streams, a campaign to raise awareness of the damage water waste is doing to our local waterways, but more importantly to achieve real and lasting change in customer behaviour.
Working with behavioural science experts, we’ve created SaveOurStreams.co.uk, an online platform that gives customers tailored advice based on their water-using behaviours. We then provide customers with gamified challenges that nudge them to change those behaviours, and crucially also offer free and relevant water-saving devices that they can install to lock in savings. The campaign has received a huge response so far, with over 90,000 customers participating, and over 110,000 water-saving devices ordered. Most importantly, we are already seeing 3.6 million litres being saved every day.
How businesses can help
We don’t talk about it enough, but the water industry was pioneered by enterprising and risk-taking businesspeople in this country, who applied their capital and technological know-how to do what was once unthinkable and bring good quality, drinkable water into people’s homes. Now we’d like to appeal to that same sense of entrepreneurial public-spiritedness and ask CBI members to do their part by reducing their own water waste at home and at work.
There are several easy steps that businesses in all sectors should take to reduce their water waste. Many have already deployed Lean manufacturing processes, and water use is minimised in the development of products. However, those same companies often have ageing toilets that use over 13 litres of water with every flush and taps that flow at a similar rate to the water flowing over Niagara Falls. Few business leaders also realise that low-cost devices like cistern bags and tap flow restrictors can achieve savings of 30-40% – which as well as helping the local environment, can also take a considerable chunk out of a company’s water bill.
For those businesses who are open to using more innovative technology, high-tech solutions can be used to control the use of water across premises or detect leaks and automatically shut off the water supply, preventing damage and waste.
Businesses should also look at their own industry and ask what small steps could be taken to dramatically change consumer behaviour. For example, after seeing the significant impact that energy efficiency labelling has had on purchasing behaviour, we’re currently talking to white goods manufacturers about adding similar labels that make customers aware of how efficiently an appliance uses water. We were recently pleased to see that the UK government has also made a positive commitment to mandatory water labelling.
But if nothing else, we’d be thrilled if you could ask your customers and staff to visit our website and sign-up at SaveOurStreams.co.uk. As businesses, we all operate as part of our local community, providing jobs and serving the needs of the people who surround us every day. But when our local environment is under threat, it’s all our responsibility to use our connections and resources to help save our waterways for future generations.