Waste not, want not
As the need for reducing our water consumption grows, installers have an important role to play in educating customers. And the new Water Label scheme can be part of the solution.
When the conversation veers towards the subject of water efficiency people often ask: “How can water be an issue when two-thirds of the planet is covered in the stuff?”
This is true. However, 97.5 per cent of surface water is salt water which we cannot use to drink, grow crops or give to animals. So our potential useable supply is only 2.5 per cent of global water. Unfortunately, 70 per cent of this is locked up in ice and snow. As a result, there are already over a billion people in the world without access to enough fresh water.
This outlook could result in both crisis and conflict since water lies at the core of most things that are important for human life: food, hygiene, energy and all other living things. Water is not only essential for existence, but also for thriving societies and economic growth. In addition, water is not an inexhaustible resource; it cannot withstand constant over-extraction and being depleted faster than it is renewed. What is more, water cannot be substituted.
Please don’t think that this is just an issue affecting excessively hot countries; problems can be local, too. We have areas in the UK with plentiful supplies of water and areas with limited supplies. A further complication comes from our lack of a ‘water grid‘ which would allow us to transport water to where it is needed. Some of the areas most affected are those where we have our densest population. In the UK every person uses approximately 150 litres of water a day, a ﬁgure that has been growing every year by 1 per cent since 1930. As a consequence, London is drier than Istanbul, and the south-east of England has less water available per person than Sudan or Syria.
The problem is further exacerbated by dynamic population growth, both worldwide and here in the UK. The basic problem is that more people are demanding a resource which is, at best, in stable supply and potentially reducing due to the result of changing weather patterns. By 2050 the Environment Agency reports that river flows in the late summer and early autumn could reduce by over 50 per cent and as much as 80 per cent in some places. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs‘ 2011 white paper, Water for Life, stated: “We must change the way we value water. This will not be easy or quick.”
The first part of the journey must be in understanding how we householders use our water. In the largest study of Britain’s water use, the Energy Saving Trust surveyed 86,000 households and found that showers are the biggest water user in the house (25 per cent), followed by lavatories (22 per cent).
Hot-water use contributes £228 to the average annual combined energy bill. By reducing the amount of water – especially hot water – that we use, we can also cut down on energy bills. Only about 35 per cent of homes across the country are currently fitted with water meters. Government ministers have ordered nine of the 24 regional water companies in England and Wales to consider compulsory metering in all the homes they serve.
Plumb Center is committed to helping householders, landlords and developers make a more informed decision when choosing showers, taps, WC suites and baths by insisting that products carry the Water Label. The label itself clearly shows the volume of water that a product will consume if installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The Water Label uses the immediately recognisable indication of performance by adopting the red-to-green graphic scale similar to the energy labels.
The labelling scheme already has more than 6,000 products and 57 bathroom and kitchen brands in its online database, with more products being added daily. Of course, this is only a part of the equation. You may have a very efficient shower but if you spend 30 minutes using it then you will still be using a lot of water. Secondly, we have to show that using a more efficient shower does not mean a worse experience. Innovations have allowed the development of products which are now well proven and available throughout our branch network.
Perhaps this combination of changing the nature of water billing to reflect actual use and the introduction of the water label, when added to raising the awareness of the issues and solutions, will provide the stimulus to encourage action. Most of all, we need to show that it pays to do the right thing.
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