How to get to your green goals by looking at water use

By Barry McGovaney, Innovation and Technology Manager

Being more sustainable when it comes to your organisation’s impact on the environment may sound hard to do, though thinking around your approach and how you use water can make a substantial difference to your green goals, including working towards Net Zero - and beyond, as well as more ambitious targets.
Using hot and cold water more effectively is good for businesses, public sector and community groups and charities too. It can directly impact the bottom line and your running costs – as well as cut your carbon emissions.
Below you’ll find few things to consider to help you – whether you’re already on your way to your environmental goals, or you’re looking to start.

There are bigger savings – and costs from inaction - than you (might) think

Water can be a significant cost that’s frequently overlooked as not having much saving potential in terms of environmental impact or cost. Did you know hot water can cost between 2 – 4 times as much as cold water once energy costs are taken into account?
It’s important to understand how and where you use water, as your starting to point, so you have a clear baseline to work off. Knowing where you could get funding for larger steps is also key.

So, what are the options to help environmental and cost efficiency goals?

From building design to cut heat loss and water evaporation from swimming pools, so less mains water is needed (and less needs to be heated) – to planting more trees to help reduce site flooding risks and sustainable drainage and rainwater harvesting and reuse, a lot can be achieved by looking closer at water use at your organisation.
On wider impacts, the less water you use through wholesaler networks, the less that needs to be treated and transported to your site – again reducing the impact you have on the environment.

Introducing water efficient taps and shower heads can be a good place to start as well as regular maintenance checks. Adding data loggers to water meters also helps – providing regular updates each day/providing updates every 15 minutes on what’s being used - and where - across sites.

Also, many may not realise that while it’s important to cover any risks from Legionella for the water pipes at your business, some organisations run their water heaters at maximum when they could reduce the temperature and save money on energy costs. Remember, it’s important to make sure the water is still at the temperature needed to manage Legionella and water quality.
The Health and Safety Executive has further details on temperatures for hot water to control the risk of Legionella here.

What’s outside your buildings and your people can help too

For those with space on their site, or with large roof areas, sustainable drainage including green roofs, ponds and wetlands, along with rainwater harvesting and reuse - to reduce the amount of water going back to the public sewers - is worth considering. This can make quite a difference in wholesaler banding charges for surface water drainage (based on site area), reducing annual costs for businesses and public sector organisations. There may be some charges involved for reviewing surface water and banding for sites.
Increased hand-washing and cleaning at organisations, due to Covid-19, also provides an opportunity to help you reduce water waste – and operating costs – by encouraging your employees to report leaks and issues like stuck taps or constantly running urinals so they can be fixed.

Checking out how you could link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals is also worth doing, if you haven’t already.

Funding support options to help hot water costs and less fossil fuel use

Businesses small and large may not realise where help with upfront costs for additional measures can be accessed.

When looking at energy use, including heating water using renewables, there’s the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). It’s a UK Government scheme providing financial support to businesses for green-heat tech - such as ground, water and air-sourced heat pumps and biomass boilers.

This year (2021) is also expected to see further information published about the Clean Heat Grant and other measures, as the RHI is phased out, which would target smaller businesses. The Government’s proposal includes providing capital grants for heating water using low-carbon tech. Further updates on the changes ahead for the RHI can be found here.

Further information on environmental taxes and reliefs for businesses can be found here.

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