News & Views

Informing the water efficiency roadmap

On 11th October, the association secretariat attended a meeting organised through the Future Homes Hub to assist in gathering evidence for their project on water efficiency, which feeds into the UK Government’s water efficiency roadmap.

In response to an Environment Agency publication detailing the UK’s future water needs, the government promised to develop a roadmap towards greater water efficiency in new developments and retrofits, including the exploration of revised building regulations and how the development of new technologies can contribute to meeting these standards.

The Future Homes Hub has been asked to provide input to the Roadmap by collating a call for evidence, bringing together industry stakeholders to inform its shape and support the sector on future water-efficiency measures.

During their October meeting, a presentation from DEFRA discussed the recent drought situation highlighting that we will need an additional 4,000 million litres of water a day by 2050. This situation further drives the need for water efficiency and measures for personal water use.

Areas of water stress in the UK are already using 110 litres as the litre per person per day (LPPPD) target, showing a 20% reduction from the current 122 LPPPD.

Factors to consider in the water efficiency roadmap

BMA members participated in a Future Homes Hub survey where the outcome identified a call for representative levels of performance for new homes based on current best practice efficiencies and potential future solutions that can be delivered at scale. This formed the basis to understand what would have to be true to achieve this level of performance in the marketplace, what dependencies there are, and how long it would take to make this achievable.

Feedback included many diverse water efficiency responses, including an identification of the high cost of water reuse systems. The feedback also mentioned:

  • Water recycling and the perceived confusion over what wholesome water is. The need for clarification required could require possible legislation updates.
  • Participants also wanted to see better metrics that bridge the performance and efficiency of products and whether energy-style certificates can be incorporated.
  • New tech exists and is being developed for WCs, showers and in leak detection. However, advanced technology sometimes requires specialised maintenance and is limited by regulation.
  • The use of dual flush buttons is confusing for consumers. Devices should be easy to use.
  • Water-saving products may be fitted, but if homeowners don’t like them, they may remove them. Ultimately, consumers must want to be water efficient.
  • Could smart water meters be utilised to encourage water-saving?
  • Concern was raised about the UK drains and their removal of wastewater effectively.

Discussions within the session also identified that countries like Australia, the USA, Israel etc., successfully use semination and rainwater harvesting systems. This inevitably led the discussion to ask that for all the helpful incentives for households, what is the onus of the water companies on this improved efficiency of the delivery systems? Concerns were aired that the work seems always to be steered towards the housebuilders and manufacturers. It is encouraging that water companies want to work in collaboration; however, what is their culpability in collection investment, protecting the current supply by repairs of systems and leaks and investment into technology to assist sustainability through greywater and collection?

Water companies maintain that without mandatory regulation, water-efficient behaviour change will not be driven unless consumers fully understand the benefits. They also maintain the use of fitting-based systems instead of the LPPPD needs to be greatly considered.

The manufacturer’s view

From the manufacturer’s point of view, we see a rise in interest in low-use water products but not the uptake from consumers. It is interesting that the drive here is to reduce and save water, but in truth, consumers will continue to require the same water for a relaxing bath or the luxury of a rain shower.

We are in danger of forcing something on the consumer that they will not like, so we must recognise the price of water and that saving money is not a driver. This is a truth that must be acknowledged and dealt with effectively to be successful.

We need to drive home to people that water is a scarce commodity and consider its function in house build design. A fitting is an end-of-use device, but how it is used and what is expected of it must be understood, and consumers must use water-efficient products as they were designed to be used.

Rainwater and greywater

The meeting also discussed rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse as water efficiency measures for buildings and whether the water captured should be considered as ‘decarbonising water use’.

It concluded that water reuse is expensive and has to be built into the building. However, this provides a bridge to other technologies like rainwater collection, catchment projects, agricultural uses, and non-potable water in buildings for drain use.

The customer perception of effluent reuse projects in housing estates is also a problem. There is a push for water undertakers to take on the onsite development of greywater systems like rainwater harvesting for use in developments as it is sometimes not cost-effective in singular homes.

Members may be interested to review this project led by Anglian Water for an Integrated Water Management (IWM) solution for water-smart communities.

Attend the next meeting

The next Future Homes Hub meeting is on 14 November 2022. There will be an in-person workshop at NHBC’s London Office: 6th Floor, 1 Minster Court, Mincing Lane, London, EC3R 7AA and for interested parties who can’t attend the venue, an online service via Microsoft Teams is also available.

Please contact the BMA’s Technical Director, Andy McLean, for further information.

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