Glenn Smith, sales and marketing director, Wave Domestic water retail, Non-domestic water retail, Water, Water networks, Opinion, carbon reduction targets, Environment Agency, Leaks, WaterAid, wave

Glenn Smith, sales and marketing director at Wave, warns of the risks posed to UK water if we do not tackle the key issues facing the sector. 

As we mark world water day, many people in the UK might think that the potential of drought is something more relevant to hotter, drier countries. However, water scarcity hit the headlines this week and the problem is much closer to home than we realise.

According to a 2018 Environment Agency report, if we don’t increase water supply, reduce demand and cut down on wastage, many areas will face significant water deficits by 2050, particularly in the south east.

This message came loud and clear this week as the head of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, warned that decreased rainfall, population growth, wastefulness and leaky pipes pose an ‘existential threat’.

In our lifetimes, water will become a rarer and scarcer commodity due to climate change and environmental damage. As climate change takes hold, water shortage events not typically associated with the British Isles could become more frequent and more intense.

In this context, the high volume of water waste in the UK continues to become increasingly unacceptable. Right now, three billion litres of water is lost every day.

This is a third of the water taken from the natural environment and is enough to fill more than 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – a truly concerning statistic.

Within households, issues such as dripping taps and leaky toilets contribute significantly to this water waste; it’s estimated that 1 in 10 toilets in the UK has a leak.

Surprisingly, modern dual-flush toilets that are poorly installed or use low-quality fittings are amongst the worst culprits.

However, it is also crucial that organisations take greater accountability. For years energy efficiency and carbon reduction has taken priority over water.

Whilst things have started to change, with many companies actively looking to reduce water consumption, more can be done to put water efficiency high on the agenda.

Efforts to reduce wasted water can be counted towards carbon footprint reduction strategies. Making the water-energy-carbon link is so important and something that is often overlooked.

Through monitoring and efficiency measures, there are now simple and cost-effective methods for organisations of all sizes to save both water and money.

Wave has worked with public and private sector businesses for many years to drive down consumption, some of which have managed to cut their water use by 30 to 40 per cent.

The first step is to acknowledge that the UK isn’t invulnerable when it comes to water scarcity, as the recent warnings from the Environment Agency demonstrate.

The theme of this year’s world water day is “water for all”, which emphasises that as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.

Billions of people are still living without safe water across the world, and often have significant challenges in accessing and managing water that’s safe to use.

This world water day, let’s take the issue seriously and think ahead. We all need to challenge ourselves to do our part to help tackle water waste and become a more water efficient society.