That was the message for the industry from consultants and regulators speaking at a one-day conference organised by environmental consultancy and training firm Aqua Enviro.

Organisations were warned that they need to measure and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions ready for phase one of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which begins on January 1, 2010.

The CRC, which was outlined in last year’s Energy White Paper and has provoked some controversy in the business world, will apply mandatory emissions trading to large commercial and public sector organisations.

The water industry accounts for 3% of total energy use in the UK, or 4m tonnes of CO2 a year, and 56% of all its greenhouse gas emissions are from wastewater treatment.

Nyla Sarwar, from Aqua Enviro, outlined some of the biggest challenges for the industry, alongside the size of their emissions.

She said: “Water companies have little if any experience of trading emissions in the past. Accurately measuring emissions data will be an added challenge.

“It is also important that the water industry strikes a balance between reducing emissions and increasing water quality.”

Stephen Boyle, principal policy officer at the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), said the industry must act quickly.

He said: “2009 will be the base year so you will have to start looking at your carbon footprint next year, not in 2010.”

He added that SEPA only recommends that companies use offsetting as a last resort to meet the requirements of the CRC.

Martin Hall, director of strategic consulting at Mouchel, said energy efficiency on its own would not be enough to dramatically reduce energy use.

He told delegates: “I think that if the water industry is going to make a reduction of something like 60% we need a lot of radical thinking.”

UK Water Industry Research recently announced that it has teamed up with engineering firm MWH to develop a carbon calculator which will allow water companies to measure the amount of embodied carbon they use.

Kate Martin

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