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Water Neutrality in the UK- How Freeflush Can Assist.

Water Neutrality in the UK

The following article is a summary of the Paper: A Review of Water Neutrality in the UK. The full paper can be found here.

What is Water Neutrality?

Water neutrality in new domestic housing developments is defined as follows:

“For every new development, water demand should first be minimised then any remaining water demand offset, so that the total demand on the public water supply in a defined region is the same after development as it was before.”

Water Neutrality - How?

 There are three main ways to realise the goal of water neutrality.

  1. Reducing water use. Increasing a householder’s awareness of the need for water neutrality can encourage the adoption of water-saving behaviours. This would include the fitting of smart meters and water-efficient home products.
  2. Reusing water by harvesting rainwater. Householders could also recycle greywater and blackwater.
  3. Offsetting demand by investing in schemes that save water in the local region. These schemes include retrofitting existing buildings with water-efficient devices and water reuse systems. The aim should be to save water equal to the remaining mains water usage of the new development.

 water neutraility

These are wide-ranging. Benefits range from financial and reputational, through to environmental and social.

For a new domestic building they include:

  • Saving water. The UK could save around 112,000 litres every year for each water neutral home built.
  • Saving carbon. Each household could save around 43.8 kgCO2 per year on carbon emissions arising from water use.
  • Saving money. Householders can reduce water and energy bills by £44 per home per year by reducing water demand to 85 litres per person per day.
  • Reducing environmental impact by decreasing the amount of water extracted from rivers and groundwater sources.
  • Improving resilience for the future by minimising pressure on water resources and networks.
  • Enabling future housing growth in water-scarce areas by reducing the impact of new homes and buildings on the water environment.
  • Reducing the workload of the sewage network by using less water, recycling greywater and rainwater harvesting.

Barriers to achieving Water Neutrality

Despite the numerous benefits of water neutrality, it has not yet seen wide-scale implementation in the UK. Why?

There are several potential barriers to uptake. Potable water is inexpensive. This creates a low financial incentive for homebuyers to install water efficiency and reuse measures. There are a lack of targets and regulatory requirements for water neutral development. There is no specific funding or incentives allocated for water neutral development and funding sources and mechanisms are unclear. The focus seems to be on offsetting to achieve neutrality, rather than reducing consumption of mains water first. Issues can also arise when many delivery partners are involved, creating complexities for planning and implementation. Another consideration is low public awareness of water resource issues. Often the desire to own and maintain a water neutral home is rare.

Enabling Water Neutrality

Delivering wide-scale water neutrality in new developments will need coordinated efforts. These include:

  • Funding

Funding sources and mechanisms could include:

  • Funding water company programmes to raise awareness of the need for water neutrality. These programmes would also promote methods of water reduction
  • Local Authority Projects and Offset Schemes.
  • Market-based Offset Schemes.
  • Financial Incentives, such as rebates and grants can enable the uptake of water-saving products.
  • Joint funding of projects could be an option given the links between household water use and energy use. There may be opportunities that seek to achieve both water and carbon neutrality.
  • Innovation funding.
  • Supportive Policy

Carbon neutrality, flood risks and biodiversity issues have required policy and leadership changes to see progress. The same is true of water neutrality objectives.

  • Education and Awareness

Awareness of water resource issues in the UK is low and so there is little public pressure on leaders and policymakers to establish water neutrality measures. An increase in the understanding of how vital water is to society and how fragile water resources are in the UK would further this agenda. Raising awareness of the financial and environmental benefits would also bring about positive water-saving behaviours.

  • Business Resilience

Businesses rely on water. As the business world commits to reducing its environmental footprints; the complementary goal of water neutrality could be set also. Businesses are often the first movers on environmental ideas, particularly when they impact operations. As more businesses adopt water neutrality it could help drive the approach towards becoming mainstream.

  • Good Partnerships

Learning from all areas of neutrality in the UK and global examples, good partnerships between key organisations are crucial. Water neutrality also needs a multi-stakeholder approach, particularly with the offsetting component. Establishing strong partnerships early in the development process is important. The stakeholders may include water companies, local authorities, developers, and other local organisations and businesses. As a starting point, the developer, local authority, and water companies should discuss ambitions to achieve water neutrality in the preliminary stages of any development.

The Bottom Line

If delivery mechanisms are in place to surmount the current obstacles, then water neutrality is possible. It has the potential to deliver large-scale water and carbon savings.

Water neutral developments could make water available to meet the current needs of people, businesses, and the environment. A developer focusing on water neutrality in proposals would strengthen the case for any future development. Furthermore, water neutrality can also free up the water that will enable housing and business growth, both now and in the future.

How Freeflush Can Assist?

Freeflush can advise and supply on Step 1 and Step 2 for the Water Neutraility Heirarchy. We also host the Centre for Water Neutrality in Trafford Park Manchester where the water saving technologies can be viewed.

Water saving devices can be found here:

Step 1: Reduce Water

Step 2a: Rainwater Recyling

Step 2b: Greywater Recyling

Step 3: Water Offseting - coming soon...

Greenspark Public Impact Profile