The environmental impact of water use has become more widely recognised with many of the leading UK companies now reviewing how best to reduce their consumption in order to control costs, provide good environmental governance and protect their brands.
The European Environment Agency’s WEI (Water Exploitation Index) places the river basins in the south east UK as areas of severe water stress. This has a detrimental impact across a range of factors including declining freshwater biodiversity.
The Carbon Perspective
Providing water and removing and treating waste takes energy. Based on 2010 data the whole life carbon for potable water / m3 supplied = 0.34kgCO2 / m3 while the whole life carbon for wastewater / m3 discharged = 0.76kgCO2 / m3. By calculating the whole life carbon associated with supplying water and disposing of wastewater, efficient water management provides a cost effective way to drive down emissions and enhance CRC EES league table performance.
The UK Environment Agency predicts that population increases and climatic change will make water stress in th UK more acute over the coming decade with increased competition for this finite resource. Their 2009 Water Resource Strategy identifies both higher costs and accurate water use measurement as the key demand management control mechanisms. By publicising information about the water provenance and water efficiency of any product, the Environment Agency also seek to encourage consumers to make more informed purchasing choices that will direct businesses to adopt sustainable water husbandry.
There is a growing awareness of the wider geographical context of good water stewardship. In the UK we use an estimated 3400 liters of water per person per day to produce the foods and goods we use, however, less than 40% off this is drawn from the UK’s local water resources, making water use a truly global issue. Organisations actively seeking to reduce their water footprint are adopting a more comprehensively approach to water use that includes the water used throughout their supply chains.
With 2015-2016 prices rising by as much as 6% in parts of the UK, water is an increasingly expensive commodity. Most businesses can reduce their water bills by around a third. This, combined with the fact that an estimated 1 in 10 water bills contain errors, gives a potential water cost -saving across UK businesses of an estimated £10 million per day.