What makes a sustainability leader? Meet water management champions Barchester Healthcare & Demeter Water Solutions

With the entry deadline for edie's 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of previous winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: Winner of our 'Water Management' award, Barchester Healthcare & Demeter Water Solutions.

What makes a sustainability leader? Meet water management champions Barchester Healthcare & Demeter Water Solutions

Ready to follow in our previous winners' footsteps? Entries for the 2022 Awards close on 1 October 2021


After developing a water reduction scheme from a pilot scheme to a fully collaborative water management and monitoring programme, Barchester Healthcare’s water costs have been reduced by £385,000 per year – a reduction attributable to a 19% reduction in total usage. These results have been sustained through Demeter’s ongoing daily monitoring, advice and alert service.

By blending innovative technology and collaborative working across teams in both companies, water consumption across Barchester care homes has been reduced by the equivalent of one Olympic-sized swimming pool every week.

Barchester Healthcare operates 240 care homes throughout the UK and Demeter is a value-driven water use reduction specialist. Water usage in Barchester care homes is classified into three types: operational (bathing, cooking, cleaning), and unnecessary use: from faulty appliances/pipework, and due to human behaviour. To identify unnecessary usage, Demeter installed 137 data loggers across the Barchester estate. Data displayed through Demeter’s bespoke software utilities manager supports daily profile checking and alerts, fast generation of one-week reports and regular updates of portfolio performance.

Demeter has delivered sustained water savings by proactively maintaining reduced consumption profiles across the sites it monitors. Water saved is measured by comparing usage in week one following datalogger installation with current usage.

Initially, four sites were selected to run a pilot in 2013. The project was subsequently rolled out across the Barchester estate, with care homes with the highest water intensity receiving priority attention.

At the same time, services delivered by Demeter to Barchester have gradually expanded. Billing validation is used to flag high usage, a checklist is drawn up for maintenance managers to identify and rectify problems themselves, site surveys are undertaken to find root causes used to build awareness among staff, and videos are created to show varying flows running from a tap.

Barchester Healthcare’s purpose is to deliver consistent, high-quality, market-leading services for those it cares for, of which effective water (and energy) management is a strategic and operational component. Water consumption constitutes 22% of the business’s total utility spend – the same proportion as gas. Reducing costs supports further investment in care services, while demonstrating a commitment to addressing climate change and water conservation. At a strategic level, risk and water usage are reduced, and investment in the service shows sustained reductions in costs.

Demeter was established to save water for its customers and working with Barchester has developed the scalability of its methodology.

Water management is a whole team effort throughout Barchester and Demeter. Investment and strategy are commissioned by Barchester’s energy manager Lachlan Fulton and approved at senior board level. Demeter leads implementation, working directly with maintenance teams at each care home, with the support of regional managers, who report back to Lachlan on strategic issues and coordinate with accounts for billing.

In the 12 months leading up to edie’s 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards in February, Demeter reviewed 50,000 graphs for Barchester, with a notification rate of 2%. Maintenance managers react to alerts because they find them useful and accurate. Feedback of the profile showing the impact of repairs instills confidence for timely action to future alerts.

Since 2013, all four phases of water meter logging have been delivered on time, to plan and on budget. The programme for Phase Four was extended to accommodate for complexities introduced by the new water market arrangements. Taken over the past five years, the return on investment in monitoring services and building surveys is 548%. The annualised return on investment is 45%.

Barchester and Demeter attribute sustained water savings to the designs of systems and technology, which make it easy for users to understand which actions will lead to savings.

The success of this programme has created a positive feedback loop which helps facilitate Barchester’s energy team in building a case for further investment in sustainability projects. Care home managers increasingly contact Demeter directly to resolve problems together.

edie’s judges said: “The methodology presented in this entry was very impressive, as was the application of sustainability principles in the context of the care sector. Barchester’s levels of employee engagement stood out, as demonstrated through the great results achieved so far.”

Are you our next winner?

After a tough and extraordinary year, edie’s RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are back for 2022, bigger and better than ever – celebrating the incredible people, projects and partnerships that are accelerating climate action and transforming business, for good. 

Entries are now OPEN. The submission deadline for the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday 1 October 2021. The Awards is then set to take place as a live ceremony on the night of Wednesday 2 February 2022 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 

Our ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ category is among the 23 categories to choose from. Make sure you get the recognition you, and your team, deserve. ENTER THE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS AWARDS 2022 HERE.

edie Staff

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