The Business Case for Better Water Data

The business case for tackling water inefficiency is clear. Recording consumption and publishing data is vital to drive improvements

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After the UK’s second wettest year on record, water efficiency may not be at the top of many businesses’ priority list.

But with water bills rising by around 3.5% on 1 April,  following a 5.7% rise in 2012, businesses will have been reminded that this is a cost they should not keep ignoring, especially those in drier parts of the country like the southeast.

Indeed, the Managing Director of Waterwise, the UK’s leading water efficiency NGO, has warned that businesses should expect water bills “to rise for the foreseeable future”. 

While water remains relatively cheap, the huge quantities that large organisations consume make water efficiency technologies well worth the investment.

A large supermarket, for example, uses around 32,000 litres of water per day – primarily for refrigeration. This led Sainsbury’s to invest in a range of efficiency measures, such as sensors to quickly identify leaks and rainwater harvesting.

As a result it has managed to cut its water consumption by 50%, save £100,000s and is one of the first companies to achieve the Carbon Trust’s Water Standard.

Better Water Management

The Environment Agency has been quite clear about the increasing water risks that the UK faces and believes that 2012, when 20% of days saw drought and 25% flooding, is a sign of things to come.

With water use in developed nations set to rise 18% by 2025 and the effects of climate change making a secure supply ever more uncertain and unpredictable, water can no longer be considered a limitless and free resource, even in the UK.

Companies which ignore better water management are not only missing out on financial savings today, but jeopardise their entire business model.

As the head of the Carbon Trust has said:

“Failure to act is exposing businesses to water scarcity issues further down the line, which in some cases could lead to dramatically increased costs, or could even grind operations to a standstill”.

More Data

One of the biggest barriers to effective water management is the lack of data.

As very few measure their water consumption it’s not surprising that most don’t have reduction targets either, let alone coordinated strategies to insulate themselves from water risk.

In Michigan the largest water users (>455,000 litres/day) are already required to report annual water consumption and similar legislation elsewhere is on the horizon.

Although the UK’s water regulator Ofwat now requires water companies to have better long-term water strategies, this can only achieve so much – businesses must take responsibility too.

In light of the growing business risks and volatility, better data on water is a crucial first step.

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