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 34.

    I wonder if this applies to the water suppliers, who should be doing more to guarnatee a good service rather than making profits for their parent compaines which are often foreign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    In the UK where we get plenty of rainfall, water wastage shouldn't be an issue. If local councils had not sold off all the land that many reservoirs were built on, to housing developers, we'd have plenty of storage capacity today. UK law should be changed to force a sensible amount of reservoir capacity to exist in towns and cities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Complete nonsense. You can't waste water; there is a finite amount which goes round & round being evaporated, condensing & falling as rain. Billions of gallons fall on the land every day & flow into the sea but the water companies don't redirect it.

    My water co imposed a hosepipe ban last April but had money to change their name from Veolia to Affinity Water! Big bonus for the boss too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Same old same old....let's face it we'd rather give all our money to the EU and other places rather than sort out our own country with our money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Its a fact that we lose a vast % of our water in the distribution pipes ... the water companies could start by plugging these leaks. But 'water wars' are inevitable in North and East Africa and the Middle East as the population booms unchecked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @27. . . . .I'm afraid in this instance, i've been the typical 'English'. . .. . . suck it up. . . .pay it. . . . .shut up. . . . . next!. . . . .but on your advice, I'm going to kick up a stink ;). Thanks

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Privatisation has resulted in a deteriorating water infrastructure and rising bills so that the private (mostly foreign) companies can maximise their profits at our expense. Of equal concern is the demands on all our infrastructures and services resulting from the policies of succesive governments allowing unfettered immigration from within and outside the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    @stereotonic - DEFINITELY write a physical letter of complaint to the managing director, OFWAT measure those. Visible leaks that affect customers should be fixed immediately under emergency schemes.

    But the point remains valid, despite individual problems. We don't have enough water anymore. We DID have enough, but that was about 100 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Remember it's not just how much water we have in reserves - it's how complicated it is to purify then pump the water, which requires a lot of energy. The less water we use, the less energy we use, which can only be a good thing.
    Requiring all new homes to recycle bath & shower water for toilets would be a good start. Crazy we use drinkable water to flush away waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    We need a Water Police Force modelled on the Gestapo to enforce water rationing. It's not as if it ever rains here, is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Industry still uses water as if it was a free asset. From the river and back with polutants. I trust it is metered by now and at least filitered.
    Like other resources however I note that I reduce my water consumption and the price is still rising so that I can pay for private companies to improve their infrastructure and future profits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    We have unlimited fresh drinking-quality water which is so cheap that we use it to flush our toilets... then we complain about the water companies not plugging all the leaks in the supply! Hardly logical.

    It would not be hard to design a domestic grey water system to reuse bathwater etc. for flushing but the fact is water is so cheap there is no economic case for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    People take water for granted and use it wastefully. There are ways to conserve water but it is whether people will. Water butts, showering and turning taps off when not in use are simple ideas but they work. However, water companies also need to take some responsiblity and improve the networks they manage. No more burst mains or leaky pipes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    You have a product that people need in order to survive.

    It’s controlled by you and a handful of others.

    How do we maximise profits ?................ Go Figure

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Leaks, leaks, and more leaks - which the privatised water companies are slow to plug.

    And at the same time - ever increasing water bills.

    You couldn't make it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Ok, so water hungry companies that make a water based product that can be exported around the worls will look for places where there is no shortage of water? Scotland better brace itself for a massive influx of fizzy pop factories then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I don't really care, we've got lots of water and brand new infrastructure in the Highlands :) and the lochs are full of wild brown trout for free

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Oh dear, first "peak oil", now "peak water". Let market forces prevail and it all works out fine. A price rise is a remarkable incentive for people to cut consumption or businesses to improve their processes.

    A good start would be have everyone on a meter!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @ pedro

    Think about it. Showers are only very recent and people weren't rank before they were invented. Most of the population got by on a bath once a week and considered themselves clean, despite being engaged in heavy manual labour. Our expectation of cleanliness in this way is only recent and extraordinarily wasteful.

    More research is required to increase supply, but also to reduce demand.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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