What Is Water Neutrality
Water neutrality is becoming increasingly important as the world’s population grows and the demand for water increases.
Sir James Bevan, who is the head of the Environment Agency recently said recently “the country’s running out of water.” What he meant was that as a result of climate change and the increasing population we are using more water than we are collecting. This is making us less water efficient than we need to be.
As summers become hotter and rainfall less frequent, there won’t be enough water to meet people’s needs within the next 40 years yet demand for water is set to increase.
But the good news is, if we act now to meet the increase in water demand, we could avoid disaster. One of the measures is to cut water use by a third and this can be achieved if we aim for water neutrality.
What is Water Neutrality?
The concept of water neutrality, in a nutshell, is the reduction of water usage combined with projects that create new supplies of water. For example, an office block where staff have been educated on the importance of saving water also makes use of rainfall with a water collection system on the roof.
The Benefits of Water Neutrality
The benefits of water neutrality and the impact of water efficiency measures are numerous. These include but are not limited to:
The ability to save water
Up to 112,000 litres of water could be saved each year for each water-neutral home.
By saving water you can also save on energy bills. You could save up to £44 per home just by reducing water demand per person to 85 litres. If this is adopted throughout the local community then the savings could be even greater.
Helping the environment
By getting involved and adopting water neutrality you are helping the environment by decreasing the amount of water needed to be extracted from rivers and groundwater sources.
Reducing carbon emissions
Around 43.8 kgCO2 per year per household could be saved on the carbon emissions arising from the water supply.
Supporting a greater future
Benefits of water neutrality work long into the future too by reducing addental pressure and water stress on water resources and networks. It also reduces the impact new homes have on a local area’s water resources. This in turn can help enable future housing growth without stressing local supply.
It’s good news for everyone that planning applications and development proposals are starting to require water recycling and alignment with council water neutrality statements prior to being awarded planning permission. This goes a long way in making water efficient for everyone. If they weren’t then the increase in water consumption would not be sustainable and just put untenable pressure on water resources and the water industry.
How Hard is it to Achieve Water Neutrality?
It’s not difficult if you approach the problem by taking 3 specific steps. These steps are:
- Reduce water usage
- Reuse water
- Introduce offset schemes
Step 1) Reducing Water Usage
The first thing you should do is check for water leaks. Over time a leak will use a considerable amount of water. Finding and repairing leaks will save you money as well as reduce the amount of water you use.
Other small changes you can use include filling a bowl when you wash up or shave and turning off the tap while you clean your teeth. Use the dishwasher and your machine when they are full.
Installing water-saving devices will also help to reduce water usage. Residential and commercial premises can use water-saving devices in kitchens and bathrooms.
You can use the following devices:
Cistern Water Reduction
A cistern water reduction device will slot inside your cistern. Many popular devices consist of a bag filled with crystals which expand in the water. This means that when you flush the toilet there is less water used. It can save up to two litres of water every time the toilet is flushed.
Tap aerators are fitted onto a tap which produces a mixture of air and water when the tap is turned on. This combination ensures a reduction in water usage by about 60% without losing water pressure.
Water-Saving Shower Heads
A water-saving shower head reduces the flow of water and will save you around 30% water per shower. It is also better to shower than have a bath. A typical bath uses around 80 litres of water whilst an eight-minute shower uses around 62 litres.
Many water companies are now fitting smart metres. They will be fitted outside or inside homes and business properties. It will enable you to look at your water consumption online so that you can see exactly how much water you are using.
Your water company should also send you regular emails so that you can compare your meter readings and find out what you’re spending in comparison to other periods.
Another advantage of a smart meter is that it will enable your water company to remotely check for leaks.
Other water-saving devices for commercial premises
In commercial premises, as well as installing simple water-saving devices you can reduce your water usage by installing:
- Waterless urinals or urinal controls
- Self-closing taps
Step 2) Reusing Water
Another method of saving water is to reuse it. You can do this by having a rainfall harvesting system above or below the ground of your home or commercial building.
Rainwater collects in a tank. Any leaves or other rubbish is removed by a filter. If your tank is on the roof, you can access it using a tap. If your tank is below ground, then you’ll need a pump to bring it up to the surface.
You can’t drink the water, but you can use it for a variety of things that include:
- Washing the car
- Watering the garden
- Flushing the toilets
- Filling the washing machine
- Watering plants
A water harvesting system will save you from using large amounts of mains water at home and work.
For example, washing your car uses around 300 litres of water. Flushing your toilet 5 times a day will use around 9 litres of water. Washing machines depend on the model, newer models might use around 6 litres of water, but an older machine could use as much as 22 litres per wash.
You should save yourself up to 50% on your mains water usage by substituting mains water for a natural substitute. If you want to read more about the benefits of a rainwater harvesting system, then have a look at our recent blog.
If you want to save water, but don’t have a rainwater harvesting system you can use garden water butts and rainwater barrels. Standard water butts and barrels generally hold between 200 and 350 litres of water and contain a filter to get rid of leaves and debris.
If you want to be able to use water for showers, basins, and baths then you can have a greywater system installed. This system collects water from basins, baths, and showers separately from the sewerage system. The water is treated and recycled so that you can use it again for washing or showering
Step 3) Offsetting Your Water Consumption
Businesses can help to offset their water consumption by joining an offset scheme. Offsetting is done in combination with other organisations like your local council, a charity, a business, or your local water company.
One of the ways offsetting is used at the moment is by retrofitting energy-saving devices into houses and commercial premises. Other options include funding water efficiency audits and educating people about saving water.
The Role of Natural England
Natural England is the core advisor to the British Government for the natural environment in England and water neutrality is at the core of Natural England’s ethos, to help and protect our natural world.
They are a leading authority on water resources and how buildings with water can better reuse and recycle natural resources. This might include reusing water from baths, swimming pools and even toilets and advising on how to introduce water reuse systems which help improve water quality and water neutrality measures.
The combination of water efficiency and the primary matter of water neutrality is getting everyone’s attention as it all plays a vital role in the public water supply.
The Importance of Making These Changes
If Sir James Bevan’s predictions for the future are correct then we must use water-saving solutions sooner, rather than later. We have already seen much warmer weather than normal this year (2022) with less than average rainfall and the driest July since 1935. Water neutrality can be achieved with effort and care. Small changes such as showering instead of having a bath mean just as much as the big changes companies can make by installing water-saving devices and harvesting rainwater.