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In Hot Water

14 June 2010

Eliminating water waste is an overlooked strategy for improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon. Shawn Coles addresses the forgotten connection between energy and water.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY REMAINS HIGH on the agenda for building managers. A corporate responsibility burden has become a legislative burden, with the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme. However, the cost savings associated with reducing energy consumption offer welcome relief during the ongoing economic instability.
However, while heating and lighting efficiency remain under scrutiny, the energy burden of hot water waste falls outside the remit of most energy efficiency action plans. It is often forgotten that water and energy are intrinsically linked: when people turn on the tap, they usually expect to find hot water – and this is water that needs to be heated using energy from fossil fuels, which adds to a building’s carbon footprint.
Many businesses, however, fail to make the connection between water use and energy use. According to an extensive survey conducted by Water Saving Week, 85 percent of businesses were concerned about energy efficiency, while only 73 percent were concerned about water efficiency. Energy efficiency is positive both in environmental and financial terms, but cutting water waste is not yet seen as a strategy to reduce energy consumption.
While buildings will always require some heated water, water use could be dramatically reduced with little or no impact on tenants. Each person in the UK now uses an average of 150 litres of water a day – and it’s estimated that one-third of this water is wasted.
Hot water waste comes in many forms:
● leaving the tap running unnecessarily
● rinsing dishes instead of washing them in a bowl
● running the office dishwasher on a half-load.
Even small amounts of water wastage add up: for example, fixing a dripping tap can save as much as 5,000 litres of water a year.
“Water is a precious resource,” comments Chris Sheppard, Performance Development Manager for Guernsey Water, “and yet many of us use it as if it was free and available in unlimited quantities. It’s not!”
The simplest way to begin saving water is to know exactly where all the water across the premises is going. Despite this, the Water Saving Week survey found that a staggering 87 percent of businesses that spend more than £500,000 on water consumption do not have metering equipment in place to report on their water usage. Metering helps to identify water leaks, damaged equipment and areas where excess water is being used.
Once the leaks have been plugged, there are two main strategies available for improving water efficiency: water use can be cut through technological means, and people can be encouraged to change their water use habits.
When it comes to installing new or retrofit equipment, businesses may find they are entitled to receive enhanced capital allowances (ECAs) on their new water-efficiency investment.
Such equipment may include: dual-flush toilets; urinal controls; motion-sensors fitted to taps; or measures to harvest rainwater for reuse in landscaping or flushing toilets. Cheaper options include the installation of flow-restrictors on taps or cistern displacement devices in toilets, which save water with every flush.
Behavioural change
Behavioural change campaigns, which encourage more thoughtful use of water among occupiers, are increasingly popular, due to the low capital investment involved. Awarenessraising measures, like distributing leaflets and putting up posters in key areas, can transform staff into fully-engaged water users that take an active interest in saving water.
Making targets for water reduction, and then communicating successes in cutting water waste, has also been shown as an effective way of changing attitudes towards water.
Water Saving Week 2010, which runs from the 12-18th June, provides an opportunity to kick-start a behavioural change campaign. Now in its second year, Water Saving Week is a Defra-supported campaign to raise awareness of water waste. Water users of all kinds have already logged on to our website to find watersaving tips and make a pledge to cut water waste.
In order to achieve overall cost efficiency within a building, it is important for facilities managers to factor water waste into energy efficiency plans. Without proper measures in place to limit excess water use, it’s not just water that’s draining away, it’s also energy.
Shawn Coles is the Founder of Water Saving Week (12-18 June 2010), a Defra-supported campaign to highlight awareness of water waste.

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