Interserve increases its thirst for water reuse in Middle East

Interserve is targeting its Middle East operations in a bid to reduce water use across the business, where one of the challenges is to find viable markets for reusable water.

The global support services and construction firm is working towards a target to cut its total water use by 20% by 2016. According to its sustainability progress report released yesterday, Interserve has reduced its water consumption in the UK from 42,090 cubic metres in 2012 to 38,403 cubic metres in 2013 – but the bigger challenge lies overseas.

Speaking to edie, Interserve’s group finance director and head of sustainability Tim Haywood said in terms of investing in water reduction and reuse, the Middle East is a priority. “It’s probably where the majority of our consumption occurs and probably where the biggest opportunities and the biggest challenges arise,” he said.

“Over in the Middle East the water has to be driven in bowsers, has to be extracted from a water table in ever diminishing quantities and waste has to be shipped out in bowsers and tipped as close to the Saudi border as they can get it – it’s an horrendous system,” Haywood explained.

In that region, 75% of Interserve’s fixed site water use is in accommodation facilities. The company has taken significant steps to reduce its potable water use, but also increase water reuse across these facilities through the retrofit of percussion taps and flow aerators.

Biological treatement

One innovative development within the past year or so, is the installation of Bionest plants – on-site biological treatment systems capable of converting wastewater into usable water which can be used for a variety of applications including irrigation, dust suppression and car washing.

Haywood said the system was a potent way of eliminating wastewater through recycling and reuse, but that there were a ‘few religious sensitivities’ around using the end-product for applications such as showers and toilet flushing.

In its progress report, Interserve estimates that it has reused 51,000 cubic metres of water in the past year, but says one of the challenges is refining its data collection methods to distinguish between potable and non-potable water use.

Another challenge, particularly within the UK, is the lack of a clear financial incentive to invest significantly in water conservation measures due to the relatively low cost of water.

A more in-depth interview with Interserve’s Tim Haywood on how the company is progressing with two of its key 2014 targets – construction waste and sustainable forest products – will be published shortly on edie

Maxine Perella

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