World Water Week: Top 10 tips to reduce your consumption
With World Water Week taking place this week, there has never been a better time for businesses to help raise the profile of today's most pressing water challenges and take extra steps to tackle the issues of water security and quality.
Water is now one of the highest global risks, with new research suggesting that the world's water reserves will increasingly fail to meet demand over the coming years, leaving a third of the global population without adequate drinking water by 2025.
So what can businesses do to minimise their own consumption and help to ensure a secure water future? Edie spoke with Jacob Tompkins from Waterwise, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes water efficiency, to come up with some answers...
Top 10 tips to reduce water consumption in your business
1) Begin with the simple things - 'Quick fixes' such as fitting aerated showerheads in staff showers, using low-flow taps in sinks and adding controls on urinals often have a payback of less than three months. Once these are done and you have seen the savings, you can look at process use and more sophisticated consultants.
2) Don't waste money on consultants - Often the standard corporate reaction to a problem is to get in consultants, but don't do this until you have assessed your internal knowledge first. Many of your maintainance staff, cleaners, utility managers, plant managers, and FM contractors will know loads about water use and wastage so ask them first
3) Work out who is responsible - Does water fall within anyone's remit or do you just pay the bills without question? Make someone within your organisation the water lead and incentivise them, otherwise it will get ignored as spending time negotiating cheaper energy is seen as a much quicker way to save money.
4) Water is cheap, but running out of water is not - Water is a lot cheaper than your energy or IT bills. But have you ever thought what you would do if the water was cut off for a day? Do you have storage on site; do you have alternative sources; do you have a contingency plan? How much would closing the plant or stopping production cost? This may sound far-fetched but it's happened in Australia and places as near as Spain.
5) Reducing water costs reduces your energy costs - and also your production costs. Water is five times more difficult to heat than granite, so hot water is very expensive, likewise water is heavy to pump around. Saving water will make a big dent in your energy bill, and optimising your water use will also optimise your other operations and lead to savings in production or improved performance.
6) Do an audit - Where does your water come from; what is it used for; where does it go? Put together a simple balance sheet as you would with your cash and it will give you a good idea of where savings can be made. Sewerage bills are based on 90% of incoming water going down the sewer.
7) Check your meters - Do you actually check your bill against your meter to make sure it all adds up? You can also use your meter to check for leaks and for any consumption when there's not supposed to be any (overnight, for instance). If you have a big site, think about adding sub-meters to get a better handle on use in different processes or buildings.
8) Unexpected places that use water - Companies often think that they don't use much water just because they are an office. But what about things like air conditioning? Air con systems use huge amounts of water, so turning the temperature down by a degree or using natural ventilation can save loads of water, and energy. Computer servers and storage also use huge amounts of water for cooling, so check them too (and if it's all off-site or in the cloud, remember that somewhere there's a data warehouse using lots of water and energy to store every single email.)
9) Ask for a discount - There is competition for business water supply in Scotland and its coming in England & Wales in 2017, with big business customers able to choose now. Water companies are therefore keen to offer incentives to retain customers, so ask about price or additional services or help.
10) Engage your workforce - Less than 40% of domestic customers have a water meter so your staff might not know that businesses have to pay for water. Tell your workforce what is happening, ask them for their ideas and update them on how much is being saved. You could even use some of the savings to pay for a staff party.
11) *Bonus tip* - Tell your supply chain and your clients exactly what you have done to reduce your water consumption and apply for any relevant award schemes - it impresses your customers and makes your staff proud.
World Water Week takes place in Stockholm from 31 August - 5 September under this year's theme of 'Energy and Water'. To find out more and get your business involved, visit www.worldwaterweek.org.