A response to water stress

London has recently been ranked the 15th most water stressed city in the world.

That alarming piece of information emphasises the certainty that the UK is not immune to the impacts of over-use of resources, increased population and stressed infrastructure.

Undoubtedly there’s a role for government and regulatory bodies in driving improvements in the UK’s provision and consumption of water. But we can’t rely on them alone to deliver the step-change that will establish an environmentally, culturally and industrially sustainable, progressive future.

That puts responsibility at everybody’s door – from the consumer who leaves the tap running while they brush their teeth to the water company whose pipes leak gallons of water run into the ground.

This is not groundbreaking news. We’ve all received the message loud and clear that water conservation is important and everyone can do something. So why aren’t we doing it?

Actually, we are. Domestic users and water companies are moving in the right direction.  Still, there’s a problem somewhere – you don’t get to host the 15th most water stressed city without some kind of obstacle.

The secret lies in the relationship between abstraction and economic growth. If we want to continue to grow as an industrial, productive nation, unlimited by water stress, that’s where we need to look.

Throughout the 1990s our water abstraction grew in line with economic growth (Defra). That’s a recipe for disaster in a country with limited resources and a growing population. But since the year 2000 that’s changed – there’s been a general trend toward reduced abstraction despite average economic growth.

That’s good news and some of that reduction has come from the efforts made by the water companies to address leakage. Most are now operating at their “economic level of leakage” – the point at which it would cost them more to further reduce leakage than to produce water from find an alternative source (Defra). Some of the improvement has come from increased domestic consumption and water metering.

So progress has been made but it’s not enough, we’re still cruising toward a crisis in our ability to deliver enough water to our country as a whole.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for improvement is not domestic or (believe it or not) grounded in the infrastructure that is still leaking.  Somewhere in the middle there’s a gap.

Our greatest, least-tapped opportunity is in massively accelerating that relatively new inverse trend between abstraction and growth through corporate efficiency.

That can be delivered through a conscious effort to optimise and minimise the water usage of individual businesses.

As companies are set up, it’s critical that water consumption is minimised for the long term. The planning and inclusion of simple, low cost infrastructure can make a huge difference to an organisation’s water usage performance.

Likewise, there are massive opportunities for reducing the consumption of existing businesses through straightforward, high value, low cost assessment and improvement.

The benefits for companies who actively minimise their water consumption are threefold:

  1. Immediate financial progression – positively affecting the bottom-line by significantly minimising the annual cost of utilities
  2. Economic progression – holding a meaningful role in facilitating the continued growth of the economy on a national scale and at a level more immediately relevant for that company
  3. Environmental progression – playing a part in reducing consumption of water as a raw resource and the energy and chemicals used to clean it

There’s a huge role for companies across the board, large and small, to more enthusiastically join the existing movement toward advancing our economic future and natural surroundings.

Without investment in water efficiency at a company level, we’re fast facing a threshold where we will no longer be able to sustain ourselves.  Our businesses and those who depend on and surround them, may wither.

With business-led enthusiasm and investment we can help secure economic security at every level and boost the status of the green and blue world we inhabit.

Johns Associates is already working in this area and our team can help your organisation gain these water saving benefits directly and help deliver the wider community aspirations.

For more information on this and other related issues please contact us.

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