< Features | 29.06.2017

Under pressure

Under pressure

The UK must make a concerted effort to tackle the growing problem of water shortages. Installers can help by advising customers on how to change their behaviour.

When it comes to water efficiency, it is easy to buy the first tap, shower or toilet you see with built-in functions such as dual-flush toilets, click-action dual-flow taps or aerated showers. Yes, these products go a long way to reducing water wastage and lowering utility bills for the environmentally savvy home owner, but is it enough?

Last winter was the driest in the UK for more than 20 years, and warnings from water providers and the Met Office tell of dwindling water reserves, particularly in south-east England.

Of course, situations like this are increasingly common as global warming makes winters drier and prolonged rainfall scarce. In fact, weather data from this year so far reveals that rainfall has been between 50 and 70 per cent lower than average. Scientists believe this pattern of warmer, drier weather will continue if global warming is not controlled, meaning demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40 per cent in 2030: a sobering thought.

For some parts of the UK, the threat is more imminent, with Kent and Sussex almost entirely dependent on groundwater from rain. In these areas, the Environment Agency is working closely with farmers to reduce the impact of continued dry weather as summer approaches, and says drought management measures such as hosepipe bans are likely to be enforced in the absence of prolonged rain.

IT’S TIME TO UP OUR GAME

Water efficiency may have been a hot topic for a while now, but only around 50 per cent of households say they are trying to reduce their water usage, despite the promise of lower bills. With the UK’s water supply dwindling more than ever, that percentage simply doesn’t cut it.

As the industry front-line, installers have the power to bring about change, to improve how consumers think about, manage and save water in the home. Installers need to be armed with as much knowledge as possible around new initiatives and technologies that will aid them in advising customers on the most efficient solutions.

Your local Plumb Center is always a great place to start if you’re looking for advice or the latest information. For now though, let’s focus on two ways in which you could improve water efficiency for home owners.

EUROPEAN WATER LABEL

Introduced to the UK in 2014, the European Water Label is a voluntary product-labelling scheme that has enjoyed a warm reception in the UK from most of our key manufacturers.

More recently, the European bathroom industry has backed calls to have one label for all European water-using bathroom products. Industry leaders are now collectively working towards establishing one scheme that is open to all, easy to understand, and provides national governments and the European Commission with a solution that reflects
the complexities of the industry.

The labels provide an accurate, colour-coded guide to show how much water a product uses. Much like the efficiency rating labels on kitchen appliances, the European Water Label can support installers looking to demonstrate the benefits of water-efficient products over conventional models.

With the water consumption rating clearly displayed to the customer, upselling to higher-quality, more efficient products is easier. And with 82 per cent of people saying it would be useful to compare information on how water-efficient each product is, the European Water Label has certainly met this consumer demand.

With 68 per cent of household water used in the bathroom, this was the natural focus for the water labelling scheme. Bathroom products form a large percentage of the 12 product categories, including baths, toilets and cisterns, and pumps.

Water Label with Flow Rates - PNG

40% – The amount customers could reduce their water consumption by through rainwater harvesting

50% – The proportion of household water used on the garden in the hottest weather

RAINWATER HARVESTING

Although rainwater harvesting may seem a strange suggestion given the distinct lack of rain we’re experiencing, harvesting storm water run-off when it does occur can help us to preserve water during drier spells.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that rainwater harvesting could only be used to water the lawn and wash the car and, yes, a simple and cost-effective water butt in the garden can achieve these straightforward water management measures.

That said, the rainwater harvesting industry now offers green-fingered home owners much more, with sizeable tanks and equipment which can be plumbed directly into the home’s water supply to provide grey water for toilet flushing, washing machines, non-potable taps or even showers. In fact, using a market-leading storm water harvesting system, your customers could reduce their water consumption by 40 per cent, a substantial saving on utility bills.

The future of rainwater harvesting is certainly bright, as scientists develop products that can extract moisture from the air using solar power. But technology like this is a way off and, for many customers, excavating the back garden to install a sophisticated rainwater harvesting system to feed their property is simply too ambitious.

That doesn’t mean rainwater harvesting is not for them. According to Waterwise, water in the garden accounts for only seven per cent of the total amount of water we use for much of the year, but this rises dramatically to over 50 per cent at peak times during the summer.

Installing a water butt and investing in a pump to power a sprinkler are both positive steps towards this recurring peak-time requirement and could be a saving grace for those regions facing water management measures.

For more information on the latest water-efficient products or rainwater harvesting technology, speak to your local Plumb Center branch

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