Water efficiency – The next big sustainability issue?
With the water community urging the UN to consider a dedicated goal on water during the 23rd World Water Week in Stockholm, it’s only a matter of time before the water management agenda gains the same momentum as energy management in mainstream construction.
Water has not been high on the agenda for most businesses, largely because it is relatively cheap compared to power. Very few companies set clear water targets and even fewer collect and monitor the metering data required to support the delivery of targets. Water management is not a new concept, but the lack of improvement in water policies and the absence of stringent water targets leaves much to be desired. Many parts of England, especially the south east and east, are already water stressed but there is little incentive to make the water supply system more resilient.
The construction industry needs to become more aware of the embodied water of construction products, not just the embodied energy. Many product manufacturers rely on water for their production processes. Water is integral to most ceramics and concrete manufacture, with the average pre-cast unit requiring 108.5 litres of water.
Corporates and councils must make water-efficient commitments similar to those they have made for energy efficiency and invest in reducing water demand. An estimated 20% of water is lost through leakages both within buildings and externally, but the absence of water metering means that consumers are not really aware of their water consumption and so there is little incentive to invest in improvements. Businesses must adopt certified measurement of water usage as their first step in their journey towards better water stewardship.
The current system of water charging does not encourage efficient and sustainable use of water with its “one price fits all” format. Adopting a strategy to make it mandatory for all domestic and non-domestic developments to install water meters and enforcing a sliding scale of charge would help ensure everyone pays for, and is aware of, what they consume.
With water scarcity looming and new water legislation around the corner, businesses need to become more aware and more responsible for their own water efficiency.
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