Nicci Russell, managing director, Waterwise Domestic water retail, Non-domestic water retail, Policy & regulation, Regulation, Water, Water networks, Water treatment, Opinion

“Our report sets out the progress we have made towards a UK in which all people, homes and businesses are water efficient.”

Waterwise was delighted to launch its Waterwise Water Efficiency Strategy 1 year on – how is the UK doing? report this month, which sets out the progress it has made towards its vision of a UK in which all people, homes and businesses are water efficient. 2018 has provided the perfect example of why we need to make the water we have go further.

The ‘Beast from the East’ in the spring led to water shortages for some homes and businesses right across the country. And although the summer heatwave might seem a distant memory, drier, hotter weather has led to unprecedented demand.

Water UK research shows that we can expect more intense, more frequent and longer droughts across the UK. As Defra’s Jenny Marshall-Reed said at the launch of the report: “What’s happened this year has shown how the narrative is changing. Water is vital for everyone, and it’s not limited just to water-stressed areas. We can’t keep thinking that ‘this is a problem for the south, this is a problem for the east’ – this summer it was the north and the west who perhaps suffered more.”

Our report marks a year of ambition and progress on water efficiency. The sector has worked closely with us in delivering against our strategy – the steering group has played a key role, and is a great example of partnership.

We’re also proud that our strategy won two prestigious awards – the 2018 Institute for Civil Engineers Chris Binnie Award in Sustainable Water Management and the International Water Association’s 2018 Project Innovation Award.

In Year 1, working as a sector, we’ve:

driven evidence and government commitment to an ambitious PCC target;

driven top-down buy-in of water efficiency through our Leadership Group on Water Efficiency and Customer Participation;

seen significant water savings thanks to community and individual incentives programmes;

modelled the costs of building homes to water consumption of 110 and 100 litres per person per day, showing that these costs are marginal;

seen new evidence for comprehensive smart metering from the NIC, and support from Ofwat in the PR19 methodology for water efficiency; and

helped drive more ambitious water efficiency in the retail market through our Retailers Leadership Group.

I’m also really excited about the research we’ve collectively produced to support the case for a mandatory water-efficiency label for products. This shows that a government-led mandatory scheme linked to building regulations and product standards could reduce PCC by 6 litres a day in 10 years, and 30 litres a day after 25 years.

But there’s plenty more to do. I agree with Marshall-Reed from Defra, who said: “I think there’s so much to reflect on, to celebrate, to be proud of that everybody here in their various capacities has achieved, but we can’t lose momentum now and we need to continue to do more. That’s all of us in this room, that’s wholesalers, retailers, government, the Environment Agency, Waterwise, Water UK, CCwater, Ofwat – everybody here.”

Over the next year, we’ll be working with the steering group to:

further join up water and energy efficiency across the UK;

work with government and industry on PCC targets;

take forward the Waterwise – How and Why? programme for sustained, co-ordinated communication;

produce research to inform policy on water efficiency for new household and non-household customers; and the costs and benefits of water reuse;

continue to press for water efficiency labelling and address the issue of leaky loos; and

work with retail and wholesale water companies on water efficiency for non-household customers.

We can look back on the past year with a collective sense of pride, and look ahead with a renewed spring in our step. As we say goodbye and thank you to Jean Spencer, longtime champion of water efficiency, as chair of the steering group, we welcome Daniel Johns with his strong climate change background and plan to build on the momentum we have developed towards more ambitious water efficiency across the UK.

I’ll leave you with the words of Rachel Fletcher, Ofwat CEO, at the launch of our report: “The reason I’m passionate about this agenda is that I see water efficiency as part of the suite of actions we need to address the water sector trilemma – providing resilient and reliable water supplies for future generations at affordable costs while leaving our environment in a better shape than we find it.

“I think if we want to deliver the game change in water efficiency that Waterwise is promulgating we have to recognise the crucial role the demand side will play.”