Water Saving Week and its message to users

It was water saving week last week (www.waterwise.org.uk). You may have seen the campaigns across LinkedIn, your twitter feed, had an event a work, perhaps you are generally interested in water, or you are in some way connected to the water industry.

If you had seen the campaign, you'll have noticed there were tips for schools, workplaces, communities and homes - encouraging you to save water in the garden by installing a rainwater butt, to turn off the tap when you clean your teeth, to take a shorter shower, to not put a half load in the machine, and to press the correct button on the toilet if you indeed do happen to have a dual flush version.

Now, I get this because water is important to me, for two reasons; (1) I lived through a seven-year drought in Queensland, Australia and (2) made a career change to work in water research. What I don't get are generalised water saving messages saying; 'be more water efficient' and this blanket one size fits all approach; you may not have a garden, you might have long hair so it is logistically impossible to take a shorter shower or, you're in rented accommodation and have no influence over the fixtures or appliances

For me, living under a drought order necessitated consideration for water use and then after learning about all the intricacies involved in the water sector, I developed an appreciation of it's worth - but that's me and my value system.

A consumer's understanding and appreciation

Take my Dad, his view is entirely different. He's not happy that he has a water meter and his neighbour (his sister) doesn't. So, he pops across to borrow her hose every time he waters his beloved garden. No matter the attempts to explain the effect of his behaviour (and to consider setting the garden up with a rainwater capture, storage and distribution system) it falls on deaf ears because he doesn't believe he makes a difference AND he thinks he's unfairly metered.

Now I also get my Dad's opinion, how do you make him feel relevant and how do you 'value' something when it costs about £120 for a million litres of the stuff (note there are cost variances per region). Over 65 million people live in the UK, so the objective of a blanket approach is designed to have at least some impact on some of the population. Not everyone needs to save water though - there are 'Goldilocks' consumers both residential and business - using just the right amount, unfortunately, we don't always know who they are because they don't have a water meter.

Tailoring water-saving solutions to your businesses needs

There's a diverse range of customers in the commercial and industrial sector - restaurants, manufacturing, leisure, offices and factories - each would require targeted advice and water saving/efficiency messages specific to their business. Tailored information is far more effective than generic information as a persuasion tool to encourage uptake of any action.

Universal water metering or even smart meters would make it possible to target users with significant consumption. Applying the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) can we assume just 20% of customers are actually needed to implement water efficiency actions? Once identified, there then has to be an incentive/perceived to invest in an efficiency program. Where are the UK funding sources to assist different businesses to reduce their water consumption?

Water metering and consumption monitoring are required to understand what is going on in any type of business and then consideration may be given to efficiency audits, rainwater harvesting, stormwater management, waterless technology, leak detection and repair, behaviour change, cooling towers and production processes, maintenance and upgrades specific to that business type.

Think of water like a pint of IPA (lager is so passé these days), let's say it takes 9 pints (5.11 litres = £0.006132) to make 1 pint of IPA which costs approx. £4.50 (again not allowing for regional pricing). You are quite happy to pay that because it tastes lovely and you may appreciate the malts, hops, maturation time and brewing expertise involved. The price is composed of a multitude of factors that a consumer may have no interest in - marketing, crop prices, distribution, energy use, beer demand, dealing with and disposal of by-products of beer production - however if you work in the industry all the components of the pricing strategy are important to you and if £1.00 of that price is attributed to energy costs and wastewater disposal you may consider changing your operation/process and invest to reduce that element.

Are you considering a water efficiency plan for your business? Or is it an area you want to know more about? Connect on Linkedin or pop in for a cuppa- we do have a beer fridge and a great view too.