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Water: the forgotten utility

A dripping tap.

Water is often overlooked as a resource, perceived by many as an abundant, virtually free commodity. However, each person in the UK uses around 143 litres of water daily, highlighting the importance of understanding and managing water usage. This is crucial for businesses aiming to reap financial benefits and enhance their environmental sustainability.

The advent of Market-wide Half-Hourly Settlement (MHHS) offers a timely opportunity to integrate water usage data into broader energy and resource management strategies, facilitating significant savings and supporting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.

The deregulated water market

Since the deregulation of the water market for businesses in England in April 2017 (following Scotland's lead in 2008), businesses have had the freedom to choose their water supplier. This change allows businesses to renegotiate contracts and billing arrangements, potentially securing better deals and services tailored to their specific needs.

Despite its smaller market size compared to electricity and gas, the water market offers considerable opportunities for cost savings. With around 40 retailers and 25 wholesalers in the UK, businesses can benefit from competitive pricing and enhanced service options by exploring their choices.

How businesses are charged for water

Businesses are typically charged for water through metered or non-metered billing systems. Metered supplies incur a standing charge based on the size of the incoming supply and a volume charge for water consumption. Non-metered billing, though rare, assesses charges based on business type and staff numbers or the rateable value of the premises.
Regardless of the billing method, water costs can be broken down into four key components:

  1. Water supply: Cost of providing water to the premises.
  2. Wastewater: Charges for removing used water.
  3. Surface area drainage: Fees for removing rainwater from the premises.
  4. Highway drainage: Contributions towards maintaining road drainage systems.

Understanding these components allows businesses to identify areas where they can reduce costs.

The role of water metering

Automatic Meter Readers (AMRs) provide detailed, hourly water consumption data, offering businesses greater visibility and control over their water usage. By identifying excess consumption and detecting leaks early, AMRs can enable prompt repairs and prevent water and energy waste. These devices typically pay for themselves quickly through the savings they generate.

Beyond the dripping tap

For energy management professionals, efficient water usage is as critical as managing kilowatt-hours. Commercial water management solutions are key to reducing water consumption, lowering costs, and enhancing sustainability. These solutions include:

  • Water-efficient fixtures and appliances: Upgrading to modern, water-saving devices can drastically reduce water usage.
  • Process water optimisation: Analysing industrial water use and implementing closed-loop systems or rainwater harvesting can improve efficiency.
  • Behavioural change programs: Educating employees about water conservation encourages responsible water use.

Effective water management also offers several benefits beyond cost savings including decreases in the energy required for heating and, by staying compliant with government regulations on water usage, avoiding potential fines.

The future of water management in the UK

The landscape of commercial water management is rapidly evolving with advancements such as:

  • Smart metering and data analytics: Providing real-time insights and enabling targeted water-saving strategies.
  • IoT Integration: Offering remote monitoring and automated measures through smart devices.
  • Water recycling and reuse: Implementing greywater (wastewater from non-toilet plumbing systems such as washing machines) recycling and advanced treatment technologies for greater reuse.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Utilising AI to optimise water conservation strategies through data analysis.

Commercial water management solutions are vital for businesses aiming to save money and achieve sustainability goals. By adopting cutting-edge technologies and data-driven approaches, companies can ensure efficient, environmentally conscious operations. Remember, every drop saved contributes to a more sustainable future.

Contact us to see how we can help with your water conservation strategies.