The rising importance of water efficiency

World Water Week is the annual focal point for raising awareness and addressing the planet's water issues, with the week-long event organised and led by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

Water is one of our most important natural resources but has historically not been high on the agenda for organisations. When you think about it, this seems crazy considering humans need it to survive and with an increasing population, more than ever before, we need to ensure we efficiently manage the way we use it so we can preserve it for future generations. Also, as we develop the land around us for either farming or building on, we need to protect our natural eco-systems from further damage, especially endangered species. And if that’s not enough to convince you about why we need to get this higher up in the priority chain, conserving water can save you money and reduce your energy consumption from the equipment needed to pump water.

But things are starting to change. At the start of 2018, The UK Government released their 25-year Environment Plan which sets out environmental policies and aims, including the efficient use of water throughout society, such as reduction of water leaks by water companies and improving water efficiency by end users.

In support of their Environment Plan, NHS Property Services is also starting to make waves in this area with the new Energy and Environment team. The first step for us was the big task of identifying who our suppliers are and how much we pay them, as outlined in our World Environment Day pledge become more water efficient. With water suppliers set up regional and often split between clean water suppliers and wastewater processers, we have identified 25 different suppliers and 2,000 individual accounts. Thankfully the water market has been deregulated allowing us to consolidate our suppliers.

At site level, we have introduced Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems to improve the natural soak away of water in concreted areas to prevent excessive surface run-off of rainwater into busy drainage and sewerage systems and subsequent flooding. Read more about this in our water-efficiency pledge.

We will also be working alongside the Construction team to guide their decision making for water efficiency, to match or exceed current standards. At the same time we will be increasing awareness through training and providing information on what all of us can do to reduce water use in the buildings we work.

So how can you help us? With over 3000 properties in our portfolio, we need to work collaboratively to make an impact. Here’s how:

  • Being aware of water use through your day, such as:
    • Making a cup of tea – do you need to keep the tap running?
    • Washing your hands – only turn the tap on when you wet and rinse your hands
    • Flushing the toilet – in general use the short flush (where available), and only use the long flush when necessary
  • Reporting leaks, dripping taps or low water efficiency equipment that could be upgraded, such as toilets with old, large cisterns (these can use between 10-13 litres of water in each flush, with modern cisterns using between 3-6 litres with each flush) or urinals with no automatic flush control. Report these issues via CORE.
  • Checking landscape watering is not excessive and only occurs when it is needed.

We recently hosted a webinar to present our three year energy and environment plan, and provide guidance to our customers about how they can help us achieve it. Watch the recording below.

Cameron Hawkins, Head of Energy and Environment, NHS Property Services