A study by Envirowise, the government’s business advisory service for resource efficiency, has found that UK industry and commerce use a staggering 1,300 million cubic litres of water every year – triple the amount actually needed for their activities.

The figure is relatively insignificant compared with the amounts wasted every day through leaky pipes by the water companies themselves (see related story), but nevertheless is contributing to the drought conditions experienced in the south.

Envirowise estimate that commercial and industrial water usage accounts for about a third of all water used in the UK. The food and drink industry uses as much as 312 million cubic litres of water every year, while the electronics industry uses as much as 247 million cubic litres.

Dr Martin Gibson, Programme Director at Envirowise said that while there had been a significant focus on individual household water usage, less attention had been paid to the role of industry. He called on all businesses to implement water conservation measures as they would at home.

Businesses that do implement water conservation techniques can cut annual consumption by up to 30% and in turn enjoy substantial cost savings as well as being eligible for tax relief via the government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme (ECA).

“However, by ignoring the issue, there will be serious implications for the future; the cost of water will rise as increases in demand begin to outpace supply,” Gibson warned. “Therefore wasting water will be a massive drain on profits as well as the environment.”

Envirowise estimate that the average worker uses 50 litres of water a day at work, again three times more than the 13-24 litres per person that a water-efficient office requires.

Dr Gibson urged all workers to take the same water saving mentality they have at home, into the office. Facilities management teams may need to put in place many of the water saving measures, but workers can help as well by only using what is necessary and reporting wastage.

Envirowise has launched a new initiative – WaterWealth – to publicise the measures business can take to cut water usage.

David Hopkins.

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