The Green Alliance warns that the UK needs to improve the way it consumes water or face ever-increasing bills.
A new report this week from the environment think-tank says that recently announced reductions to water bills will be cancelled out by the rising costs of dealing with long-term water shortages if no action is taken.
The report, “Cutting the cost of water: The case for improving water efficiency in the UK” recommends integrating water efficiency with current energy efficiency programmes like the Green Deal and the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), and calls for better use of the consumer water label.
At the same time, the Green Alliance suggests that local authorities where water supplies are stressed should set water efficiency standards for new housing that go far beyond national building regulations.
The business sector should also be given incentives to expand water efficiency strategies to offset the likely downturn in water savings in five years’ time after the consumption effects of water meters peak.
This is a very welcome and overdue move, one that we have been advocating since we launched the company. Water-efficient solutions like eco shower heads, eco taps and tap aerators are a blindingly simple way to reduce consumption by more than 50%.
Savings on water bills and on energy bills – as less energy is used to heat and pump the water – mean that a household will recoup the installation cost very quickly indeed. In the case of tap aerators, this is usually in just over a month.
The Green Alliance is also pushing for changes in regulations to ensure that water is priced properly, introducing variable tariffs for householders with support for the poorest households.
The think tank’s research concluded that water efficiency could save households as much as £78 a year, equivalent to 20% of the current combined water and wastewater bill.
We think that further savings are simple and achievable.
Water scarcity is a problem with all but one water company region in England and Wales classified by the Environment Agency as either seriously or moderately water-stressed.
While average water use in the UK is around 150 litres per person per day, 50% higher than in some countries in northern Europe, it is a significant household expense, particularly for the poorest households.
The average combined UK water and sewerage bill is £385 and prices are likely to rise as water companies build expensive infrastructure such as reservoirs in response to rising pressures on water supply.
Sue Armstrong Brown, policy director of Green Alliance advises:
“Current patterns of water use damage the environment and contribute to bills that now householders hundreds of pounds a year. These costs are only likely to go up without a much greater focus on water saving. We’ve identified some easy wins that would build on existing programmes to deliver real benefits to households.
“To make water efficiency a permanent solution we can learn much from the energy sector where a stop-start approach to efficiency incentives has slowed the development of a ‘savings’ market. The water sector has the opportunity to build a stable investment regime in water saving and create downward pressure on household bills.”
That is a statement we wholeheartedly endorse – saving water and cutting bills as part of a national all-embracing efficiency programme is an essential next step.