Southern Water expands push for domestic water efficiency

Following a pilot scheme last year, Southern Water has held a series of one-day sales of water butts to increase domestic water efficiency in the regions where it operates. The company has also provided ½ million households with free expandable bags that reduce toilets' water use by one litre.

“Last year we held three sales and sold 6,500 water butts. This year we’ve expanded it to eight sales and we’ve sold more than 21,000 water butts,” David Williams of Southern Water told edie. “We sell 50 gallon butts made of 95% recycled plastic that we subsidise, with the local authority, down to a cost of £10.”

This year’s sales took place in:

  • Thanet
  • Crawley
  • Isle of Wight
  • Winchester
  • Midhurst & Petworth
  • Littlehampton
  • Brighton & Hove
  • Southampton

“With the water butts, we tend to pick up the bulk of the subsidy, and in some cases all of it,” says Williams. “For instance, Thanet Council couldn’t support it financially but they were really keen, so we picked up the full subsidy.”

Isle of Wight has come out as having the highest concentration of water butts in Southern Water’s area of operation. Williams thinks the reason for the 20% water butt concentration on the Isle of Wight is down to more than just an older population that is keen on gardening. “Virtually the whole island is metered, so in theory there will be financial savings for them as well,” he says.

Southern Water’s water butt scheme is part of the company’s larger programme to reduce inefficient use of water by domestic customers. “A garden hose is so wasteful of water. A garden sprinkler will use in one hour as much water as a family of four uses in two days,” says Williams.

The company has also focused on reducing water used by toilets, and this year it sent out ½ million free Bog Hogs, bags that expand in water and reduce toilets’ water use by 1 litre each flush. According to Williams, about 36-40% of the Bog Hogs are fitted by customers. “We’re trying to get that number above 50%,” explains Williams. In order to encourage more fittings, Southern Water has added a dye to some of the bags it sent out. Customers who receive a dyed Bog Hog are sent a cheque for £50.

“We’re trying to get our house in order, too,” says Williams. “We lose less water through our water distribution systems than any other water company.”

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