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Improve water efficiency or face soaring bills, says think tank

A new report from Green Alliance warns that water shortages and infrastructure costs will send water bills soaring unless UK homes and businesses improve their water efficiency.

A new report from Green Alliance warns that water shortages and infrastructure costs will send water bills soaring unless UK homes and businesses improve their water efficiency.

According to the think tank’s new report, Cutting the cost of water: the case for improving water efficiency in the UK, rising population, climate change and regulatory changes on water abstraction are set to exacerbate pressure on water bills over the coming years. 

Water scarcity is already on the horizon, with all but one water region in England and Wales currently classified as ‘moderately’ or ‘seriously’ water stressed by the Environment Agency.

The report estimates that increased demand for water will require some £44 billion of new investment in UK water and sewerage infrastructure in the next five years, the cost of which will largely be passed on to households and businesses.

Prioritising efficiency

In the face of rising bills, Green Alliance is calling for consumers to prioritise water efficiency.

The report argues that households alone could reduce water bills by 20 per cent through simple efficiency measures, such as dual flush toilets and reduce flow taps, with the opportunity expected to be even greater for businesses.

‘Pressures intensifying’

Commenting on the report, Matthew Wright, chief executive of Southern Water, said: “The water sector will be investing more than ever before in water efficiency over the next five years…However, pressures on water resources will only get more intense.

“Water companies need to keep looking for new innovative ways to bring down demand for water, working together with customers, government and regulators.”

Government incentives

From 2017, businesses will be able to choose their water and sewerage supplier, which is expected to  improve competition in the water sector and increase the focus on helping businesses to cut their water usage.

However, the report notes that other government incentives and pressures will need to be placed on industry to embed water efficiency more fully in business planning, such as encouraging manufacturers to adopt the Water Label on their products. 

It also recommends that government and the water sector learn from approaches used in the energy sector to incentivise demand reduction, such as the Green Deal.

Action plan

Last month, the government-backed Water Taskforce, an initiative from Business in the Community (BITC), published a six-step action plan to help companies improve their usage of water.