“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink” so states Coleridge in his lyrical poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This is the curse of those attempting to get attention for water efficiency. We live in a country that, to the average person, suffers from too much water, ie rain, rather than too little.
However, extreme weather events, rising population and the increase in single person households are starting to take their toll on the water supply. Less water will need to go further.
So far water efficiency has had very little attention from policy-makers and has had little traction with the public. For evidence of this see our new film below which shows six views and experiences of water efficiency in the home.
It’s not very surprising. Even if people did want to save water, two-thirds of households don’t have any knowledge of the volume of water they use, as their water use is not metered. This makes us almost unique in the EU and in developed countries across the world. Most of us could leave the taps running all day and still pay a fixed amount.
But this is more than a water issue. Water costs energy, ie carbon, to use. Heating water for washing and kitchen use accounts for 22 per cent of the energy used in homes, and around five per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions. The water industry as a whole also uses huge amounts of energy for extracting and treating water, which produces a further one per cent of the UK’s emissions. Water efficiency reduces emissions.
Coming up is a massive opportunity that could help increase water saliency and start us on a trajectory to water efficiency. The Green Deal is being promoted by DECC as an energy efficiency measure, and there is reluctance to open it up wider. Yet, as water has a large associated carbon footprint, its inclusion could be justified on carbon grounds alone. Leaving it out would limit our ability to address a fifth of household emissions.
Equally, we need to make the most of retrofitting opportunities like the Green Deal. There won’t be many opportunities to upgrade households around the UK, so we need to ensure each visit is delivering as much as possible. For a small extra sum, Waterwise estimates it would cost just £70 to install water efficiency measures and this could be added into the Green Deal financing.
Government is often accused of operating a siloed approach to policy. If the energy and green economy bill to be published in early December has a ‘waterless’ Green Deal in it, DECC could be accused of the same.