The growing population and climate change are putting increasing pressure on water supply in the UK. A substantial increase in consumers and a shortage in rainfall mean that urgent action needs to be taken to help sustain water reserves. It’s important that schools start to monitor their usage and find ways to become more water efficient, which can also help save significant amounts of money in the long term.
The vast size of schools and the number of people on site have a dramatic impact on water usage. Consider the number of people who will flush a toilet on a daily basis or shower after a sports session, or the number of flowerbeds that need watering or windows that need cleaning. Combined with boilers that need heating and evaporative losses from pools, water wastage can be excessive and lead to expensive bills.
Schools need to be savvy about how to save and reuse water in order to keep energy costs to a minimum. Simple solutions are frequently low cost and offer payback in less than a year, whereas higher cost (large capital) solutions will have extended return on investment. However, it’s more about reducing the amount of water that you use, rather than restricting it, as water is a vital part of living. Checking all areas of water use and identifying where improvements can be made can lead to moderated consumption and great savings on water bills.
If your school has a flat or pitched roof, have you ever considered installing a rainwater harvesting system? This simple yet effective technology can help with irrigation, but can also be used for flushing toilets. Alternatively, you could install a water butt on site to collect rainwater, which could save around 2,400 litres per annum.
Other cost-effective installations such as push taps, where you can adjust the time flow, can help limit any water wastage. You can also fit a flushsaver in all toilets, which can save 1.2 litres per flush on average. And don’t forget to check if your showerheads are water efficient. Did you realise that by replacing a 13l/min showerhead with an efficient 7.7l/min could save around £160 per annum? It all adds up.
Schools need to be savvy about how to save and reuse water in order to keep energy costs to a minimum
New technologies, such as smart meters, allow you to keep track of how much water you use, giving you precise readings, as well as helping to detect any leakages. Checking internal plumbing and outdoor water tools, such as sprinklers and hoses, for leakages can also make a huge difference – a dripping tap wastes around 5,500 litres per annum on average. You can also prevent overflows by regularly inspecting washers and ball valves in cisterns.
If you have a swimming pool on site, did you know that you can lose water through evaporation? When not in use, just make sure that you cover it, which should moderate any evaporation losses and reduce the need to refill. And try adding a layer of leaves, bark or compost to flowerbeds: this will help to retain moisture and means they don’t have to be watered so often.
There are a number of dedicated energy management companies, such as Orchard Energy, that can carry out water audits on your behalf. By analysing water usage on site and validating bills, they can identify how to reduce consumption and make cost-effective recommendations, as well as ways to save money on bills and recognise potential entitlements to rebates from historical overpaying.
It’s also worth noting that the water market deregulated in Scotland in 2008, allowing businesses, no matter how small, to switch and make savings on their bills by changing water suppliers. This will come into effect in England in April 2017. There is the option to switch water suppliers now; however, this would only benefit companies which consume large amounts of water.
Amar Hussain is commercial director at Orchard Energy.