Carbon Trust launches scheme to tackle water waste

Agriculture sprinkler system (Image: Reuters) Irrigation accounts for the vast majority of global freshwater consumption

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An international standard on water reduction has been launched in an effort to encourage businesses to use water more sustainably.

The UK's Carbon Trust, which developed the scheme, said many business leaders did not see the issue as a priority.

The Water Standard will require firms to measure water use and demonstrate efforts taken to reduce consumption.

It is estimated that more than 60% of Europe's largest cities consume water faster than it can be replenished.

UN data shows that 70% of global freshwater use is for irrigation, 22% is used by industry and 8% is used in homes.

Water use is forecast to increase in developing nations by 50% by 2025 and by 18% in developed nations.

"We know that most businesses that are very big users of water don't really have a handle on [water stewardship]," explained Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay.

"Very few measure it, even fewer have targets to reduce consumption. So even if there is not a significant cost penalty for water use, there is a very significant business risk."

In order to be awarded the Carbon Trust Water standard, Mr Delay said the process was "relatively straightforward".

Carbon Trust Water Standard logo (Image: Carbon Trust) The Carbon Trust said that there was no global standard for business water reduction

"They need to be able to show us that on a year-on-year basis they are reducing their water use," he told BBC News.

"We look at the various water supply methods: mains, surface water abstraction, groundwater and rainwater collection.

"All of the water than comes into the company we will count as an input. We will also look at trade effluent because it is the dirty water and normally needs to be licensed and manage very carefully.

"We are looking for companies that are awarded the Standard to show a year-on-year reduction on both water input and effluent."

The Trust decided to branch out from its usual territory of measuring energy use and carbon footprints because there was not a global standard on water reduction, he added.

"We firmly believe that if you measure something and if you manage it, then you will reduce it and improve its performance.

But, he said: "We are not covering every single angle of water stewardship in this standard [but] we are saying that if you can reduce that then that is moving in the right direction."

Mr Delay explained that the issue of water scarcity was closely linked to climate change because "one of the big impacts will be the threat to freshwater supplies".

'Early adopters'

Among the four "early adopters" of the standard was Coca-Cola, whose operations in India had been criticised by campaigners who said the firm was abstracting too much water, which was having a detrimental impact on surrounding farmland.

Mr Delay said that the Trust's standard had been awarded to Coca-Cola Enterprises, which was responsible for the northern European operations of the global brand.

But he added: "The more people get into managing their water use, the more they will be exposed these sorts of questions and, hopefully, come up with some solutions."

On the website for the Coca-Cola Great Britain, which is a separate company to the Enterprises operation, it said: "We believe we can be part of the solution to India's water issues and we've made water stewardship the primary focus of our sustainability efforts throughout the country.

"We've improved our water use efficiency by 14% since 2004 and we're continuing to invest in new innovations and plant processes to help us make even more improvements moving forward."

Commenting on the launch of the Water Standard, Coca-Cola Enterprises chairman and chief executive John Brock described water as "fundamental to our business and our communities".

"By measuring and managing our water impact... we can address longer-term water scarcity issues," he said.

"This certification recognises the progress we have made towards becoming a water-sustainable operation."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    10.tiny tim- Feel free to fall into a rank and putrid condition for the sake of saving a miniscule fraction of the 8% of total water use that domestic consumers contribute. Perhaps some research into capturing the large downpours of rain that our changing climate is providing us with might be more beneficial. Water suppliers could clean up their own waste too rather than point fingers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    There is NO water shortage in the UK.

    There is an INFRASTRUCTURE SHORTAGE as our water network has been asset stripped and slashed to the bone.

    Now water companies are looking to solve the problem of failing infrastructure by getting everyone to use less of their product, but pay the same as before.

    Nationalise the networks, Arrest those responsible, Imprison them for the good of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @10. tinytim

    It isnt the climate that determines the amount of water stores we have, it's the poor management of the water we do get that's the problem. Showering every day is not something i would describe as a "habit", more part of an essential hygienic routine. After what was the wettest year in recorded history we should have, if properly managed, more than enough water for the foreseeable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Whether this is the most appropriate agency or not, pro-active and intelligent action such as this has to be welcomed and applauded.

    Makes a change to write a positive comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    This is an important issue. There's less excess water in Britain than you might think, given the climate. Capturing it and serving the needs of an increasing population are problematic and set to be more so in a changed climate.

    This is a start but we're going to need more fundamental change, like stopping the habit of showering every day, which previous generations would have considered nuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Someone should tell these useless QUANGO that water is that stuff that falls out of the sky in Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Yet another pressure group few of us have heard of coming up with a new set of rules.
    Why don`t these bodies just mind their own business and leave the rest of us alone

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The water companies. Another privatization success story?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    #4. Yes. There is selfishness in the developed world, but not in much of the rest where water is scarce - with the population rising

    #5. Correct (in principle). The SE of England is already paying the price of increased water usage, and no end in sight

    Both points will lead to shortages in more places

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    @3.Muppet Master

    UK population would have stopped increasing were it not for 3m immigrants since 2001. The only safe way to decrease population is do it very gradually else you get demographic schisms. Promoting a maximum of 2 children per woman through the tax system is the only non-descriminatory way of achieving this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    3.Muppet Master - "Want water use sustainability? Look towards decreasing the population......"

    How about coming up with workable solutions on that front that would be easier to impliment than people simply stopping being so unnecessarily, selfishly, wasteful.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Want water use sustainability? Look towards decreasing the population

    That in itself would solve a LOT of other problems too; Food shortages, resource usage, climate change, land erosion (from over farming and deforestation, etc.) and more

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    You watch. Large corporate interests will be largely immune from any such standards, whereas Joe Bloggs will have price rises and authoritarian rules placed on them.

    One of the first to go will be people's ability to wash their own cars - you'll be forced to go pay a business to do it. If you think this is scaremongering, it's already put into force in certain "green" places in the USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I don't believe that business and households should be singled out here. The water companies could start by plugging the leaks that they choose to ignore. They metered our water, turned down the pressure and still took 9 months getting round to repairing what they damaged, leaving us with a garden we couldn't use AND a huge bill!


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