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 54.

    The reason so many resources - fish, forests, land as well as water - are being used faster than they are being replenished is simply because there are too many users.

    The Carbon (I suppose they mean CO2) Trust obsesses about one aspect of the environment, as does the BBC.

    The Optimum Population Trust (now Population Matters) addresses the real issue:

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    @46 starfish

    UK population is still growing. Malthus' ideas may just have been ahead of his time. There must come a limit where demand for a resource outstrips supply; fresh water being a fundamental resource. We may not be at the limit yet but if people refuse to act on the population issue, it will cause problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    I don't understand all this water shortage talk. Just use a tap, there's always water in them...

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Just got my water bill for the coming year and not only has it gone up quite a bit, they have the nerve to enclose a leaflet inviting me to make monthly donations to water aid for the third world. Bit rich coming from a private utility firm who are raking in the profits, if they want to give to the poor they can take it out of their directors massive salaries and bonuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Who cares?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    It is good that an official body is highlighting this issue, but the response must be targeted.

    The amount of water currently wasted due to leakage in our supply infrastructure is scandalous and would dwarf any savings made by individuals or businesses becoming more efficient.

    Tackle these large volumes first, and then start looking at smaller savings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    We must force the water companies to fix the leaks and do so out of profits, no dividends or bonuses to be paid until they have water leakage under control and verified, if they can't do it nationalise them.
    A friend of mine works for one of the major water companies in a technical position and pulls his hair out about the waste that goes on unchecked, when he raises the issue he is ignored

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    We'll find out soon enough what the Carbon Trust are up to via Private
    Eye, where the real news is. They are branching out, it says in the article. Does that mean that they are no longer satisfactorily trading on standard carbon trades?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    @41 "global population is too high"

    Don't hold your breath, Malthusian economics has been wrong for over 200 years now. Biggest consumers are the developed countries and their birth rates are stable or declining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    So the Carbon Trust are now the self appointed hydrologists to the stars, are they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Compelling evidence:
    1. HCCBPL (Hindustan coca-cola beverages private limited) is causing depletion of the water resources in Kerala, India
    2. Fracking world-wide is polluting water + poluting Ground Water with highly-toxic fluids.
    3. Countries like Mauritania & Niger more than 90% reliant on external water supplies.
    Will we soon have water-wars?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    To all of those who keep saying that our ancestors never used to shower or bath everyday and they did ok, I would like to point out that our life expectancy is much higher than our ancestors because of our increased hygine habits and we all suffer far less from disese as a result of improved hygine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    39 - yeah, we have similar thoughts about London water that has gone through 7 livers already before reaching the taps. I'll take my chances with the odd dead ewe in our mountain streams.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Peak Water- Peak Oil- Co2- GW - and most of the other "pending catastrophies " all have one common root problem , global population is too high .

    Untill we tackle that - the rest become unsolveable long term .

    If we don't tackle it , nature will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.


    "we're going to need more fundamental change, like stopping the habit of showering every day"

    Eeeuuuu - gross.
    You may be happy to stink, but most of the rest of the population prefer to be nice and clean. If you're going to come up with an idea, please try to make it a practical and realistic one...

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    @18. . . . .and if everyone had your attitude, 'your' water won't last 5 minutes. . .. . . and what about a dead sheep in the mountain streams? How do you know dead animals haven't contaminated your Loch waters? Saw it for myself when I was there, and changed my mind about filling up my water bottle with the crystal clear mountain water!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    32. chiptheduck
    "there is a finite amount which goes round & round..."

    Well, yes... but it could also simply move elsewhere. The Sahara was once a fertile savannah wetland. If the same thing happened here (and it could) what would we all do? ....
    The Sahara has been dry for many millions of years, but if you want to plan for a billion years ahead it's OK with me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Responsible use of water is a good thing to encourage... but not by lining the pockets of self-appointed guardians of sustainability. I'm sure there's a price tag to this 'standard' over and above the cost of actually meeting it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    32. chiptheduck
    "there is a finite amount which goes round & round..."

    Well, yes... but it could also simply move elsewhere. The Sahara was once a fertile savannah wetland. If the same thing happened here (and it could) what would we all do? Would most of us be prepared to give up everything and move a thousand miles away, to another overcrowded country? We should save all the water we can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    You do know what this means? the govt. will decide that we at home also need to reduce our water consumption and then they will tax water to encourage people not to use as much when in reality, the best way to save water if for the water companies to fi their damned pipes that leak continuously, wasting thousands of gallons a day.


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