By Dr Samantha Mudie, Head of Technical Development
June 5th is World Environment Day (WED) and this year’s theme is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ and will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. As usual, there are many suggested activities and actions we can all take to get involved from planting trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. The host country for the upcoming summit is Pakistan, selected in part for their integral position on the three interconnected environmental crises; climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste levels – the most pertinent of which is water pollution and scarcity.
However, we don’t have to look abroad as much as we might think when it comes to water scarcity, which is a growing issue in the UK. As urbanisation and population continues to grow alongside unsustainable water abstraction, a warming climate and unpredictable rainfall, the Public Accounts Committee warns that England is likely to face sweeping water shortages in the next two decades.
A recent survey revealed that the vast majority (72%) of the British public are unaware of the stark issues we are facing. Known as the “Great British Rain Paradox”, our country has quite a reputation for rain, and it seems unfathomable that the UK could reach a tipping point where demand for water outstrips supply at all, let alone in the next few years . Aside from the recent hot spell, just think about how awful this past year has been for rain – how could we possibly face water scarcity?!
Overconsumption is certainly an issue. Currently, daily household water usage per person is 142 litres (compared with per person water usage in the 1960s of around 85 litres) . The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, however, has raised the appreciation of clean water in the UK. DEFRA has recently been urged to produce and fund a public engagement campaign to reduce water consumption on a per-capita basis.
However, one aspect of water usage featuring in the news recently is the issue of leakage. Back in July, the Committee released a report as part of its inquiry into the UK’s water sector and infrastructure, which claimed one-fifth of the volume of water used in the UK every day is lost to leakage . This is just under 3 billion litres of water is lost to leaks every day – equivalent to 1,180 Olympic swimming pools. Even more damning, this is a statistic that has not decreased at all in the past 20 years. The BBC reported that around 400 million litres (88 million gallons) of water are estimated to leak just from UK toilets on a daily basis. This lost water is enough supply 2.8 million people – the populations of Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol combined .
In a reminder of those unintended consequences (https://www.carbonxgen.com/views/net-zero-and-unintended-consequences/), sadly the majority of this toilet-leakage originates from dual-flush toilets. Designed to save water, a combination of leaky mechanisms and confusing flush buttons has now resulted in wasting more water than they save. Recent research by Thames Water found that as many as 50% of customers chose the wrong button (high or low volume flush) or pushed both. Choosing a design with appropriate labelling goes a long way towards solving the issue.
How can you tell if you have a leaking toilet?
- A leak can be silent, but there may be a small ripple at the back of the bowl.
- Some water companies suggest wiping the back of the bowl dry 30 minutes after a flush and placing a square of toilet paper there overnight – if it is wet or torn in the morning there is a leak.
- Fitting smart water metres and assessing the patterns of consumption
- A siphon will not leak whereas an outlet valve, commonly a drop valve, is likely to leak within weeks or months.
The water and wastewater sectors are energy intensive. The range of energy used to produce water services is between 0.46–0.92 kWh/m3 . Last year, the UKs 9 major water companies made ambitious commitments to become a Net Zero sector by 2030. While this is encouraging, concerns have been raised regarding the need to build new energy-intensive infrastructure as they modernise, and that the sector has not developed a clear roadmap for addressing the resulting emissions. By using water efficiently, and dealing with leakages, not only will it set your business up to be more resilient against security of supply and save you money, but it will also reduce your carbon footprint and help to restore our planet.
We offer a range on leak detection and water efficiency services. To speak to a member of the Consultancy Services team, get in touch:
Call: 01252 560 379