Businesses urged to be less wasteful with water

Aug 10 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

With much of Europe, and parts of the UK, facing water shortages and drought warnings, a British government-funded programme has called on businesses to improve their bottom lines by becoming more water efficient.

Envirowise has launched an initiative called Water Wealth to encourage UK businesses to reduce the amount of water they are pouring down the drain every single day.

UK industry and commerce uses a staggering 1,300 million cubic metres of water every year, equivalent to 900,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, three times more water than it needs, said Envirowise.

The typical worker used 50 litres a day at work up to three times more than the 13-24 litres per person that a water-efficient offices require, equating to the amount needed a day by a camel crossing the desert in hot weather.

All this wastage is helping to turn Britain into a desert state, with parts of the south east of England having less water per head countries such as Syria and Sudan, it warned.

Dr Martin Gibson, Envirowise programme director, said: "It has been widely publicised that southern England has had its driest nine months since 1976 and there has been a significant focus on water usage around the home and garden.

"However, commercial and industrial usage accounts for nearly a third of all water used in the UK, significantly contributing to this current water shortage. For example the food and drink industry use as much as 312 million cubic metres of water every year and electronics as much as 247 million."

Businesses could cut their water consumption by as much as 30 per cent simply by following a series of simple and relatively painless water conservation techniques, he argued.

Organisations should ensure they do not think of water use and disposal charges as fixed costs. Many companies can save up to 50 per cent of their water costs, it calculated.

Always measure and monitor the amount of water you use, it advised. Compare water use each year, compare water use against production output for manufacturing companies and against staff numbers for service sectors.

Appoint a water monitor within your organisation to undertake periodic site walk-overs to identify water minimisation opportunities, he recommended.

There were also various tax relief incentives available to companies that invested in technologies that promoted the efficient use of water, added Gibson.

"By ignoring the issue, there will be serious implications for the future; the cost of water will rise as increases in demand begin to outpace supply. Therefore wasting water will be a massive drain on profits as well as the environment," he said.

The main industrial users needed to look at ways of cutting their consumption and office workers had to realise they had a role to play as well to help cut the financial as well as environmental cost.

"Many people are adopting water efficient practices at home, for instance not leaving taps running when brushing their teeth and only using full washing machines Ė and they need to take the same mentality into work with them," he explained.

"Facilities management teams need to put in place many of the water saving measures but workers can help as well by only using what is necessary and reporting wastage," he added.

Envirowise has a website,, offering businesses and individuals practical advice and tips.