Reducing water demand – a water-efficiency wishlist
This summer’s Public Accounts Committee report criticised UK water efficiency, and the authorities’ ability to better manage matters. Niki Roach and Andrew Tucker set out their wishlist for ways to cut water demand and to use a precious resource more wisely.
Covid-19 has transformed the way society uses water, social distancing and changes to daily working locations shifting the balance between household and business water use. Average household water use increased by around 20 per cent and average business water use decreased more than 30 per cent during peak Covid-19 restrictions.
Water-use data from smart meters shows that although business water use is coming back online, household and commercial water consumption are both unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels. And so, as more of us work from home, full time or part time, the old per capita consumption (PCC) baselines used for household water use will no longer apply.
“Focusing a national target on the amount of water taken from the environment, rather than per capita consumption, and aiming for a percentage reduction could offer a better way forward”
We have a new normal for water use. The new normal makes water efficiency more important than ever. The record dry summer of 2018 also broke records for water demand – but many water companies have experienced even higher peaks this year, during the Covid-19 lockdown and August heatwaves. Higher usage through home-working and schooling and the hot weather combined to push up demand as customers filled paddling pools, watered their gardens and pressure-washed their driveways.
With home-working likely to continue for many years, and with a changing climate making more extreme weather more likely, it is imperative to take a stronger national approach to reduce demand in a growing population.