Water bills are to rise and the pressure’s on to save this valuable resource. Gaelle Walker looks at ways to stop your money going down the drain
With official drought zones now declared in more than 40 English counties, and water bills set to rise by an average of 5.7% this month according to water regulator Ofwat, if you’re on a meter, now is the time to really examine your water consumption.
For carwash operators and large stores with busy customer toilets, investing in pricier water efficient equipment such as rainwater harvesting will be the best option. But for smaller stores there are a number of cheap and simple solutions that could help reduce water bills by up to 30%.
Unlike energy, water usage can be clearly seen, making it a much easier commodity for you, and your staff, to control. Given that water wastage mainly results from bad habits, getting your staff involved is vital if you really want to prevent those precious pounds from running down the drain.
A large tap can have a flow of up to 40 litres a minute, so simple measures such as ensuring that taps are turned off fully when not in use and using washing up or rainwater for watering plants can make a big difference, and won’t cost you a penny.
There are also range of inexpensive water-minimising controls that can be easily fitted throughout the store.
Most loos made after the year 2000 feature dual flushing systems. However, if you’ve still got an old-style one, dual flushing systems can now be retrofitted.
Cistern devices are probably one of the most effective tools, particularly if you’ve got a team of 10 or more staff.
What you can do
● Whether you’re tackling water or energy consumption, any reduction strategy should be accompanied by careful monitoring. Monitoring your consumption as you implement change allows you to assess the success of measures, and provides information to feed back to staff
● Study your water bills - look back over the previous two years to identify any trends or patterns
● Ensure that you record the date of any changes you make, and note any events that may lead to an increase or decrease in consumption, such as in-store community events, building work, or closure days
● Try to read your water meter at the same time and day each week/month, to minimise the impact of change in use on different days of the week
● Monitor changes in energy consumption. Reducing the volume of hot water used will also reduce your energy bills
As the cheapest option, many businesses opt for a drop-valve mechanism to control the cistern flow in their toilets. These systems are ideal for high frequency use. However, they may require regular maintenance to remove scale deposits.
You can also opt for cistern volume adjusters, which use a bag - often referred to as a ‘Hippo’ or ‘save-a-flush’ bag - that fits into the cistern of the toilet. These bags can save up to 2.5 litres per flush.
When it comes to taps, there are also lots of cheap and easy actions to take here, too.
Wash basin tap inserts and miracle taps mix air into the water, giving the same effect but reducing the output. Installing an isolating ball valve will also enable you to control the flow of water through the valve, potentially saving you up to six litres of water per minute. Fitting the valve is easy and cheap, although it’s worth noting that it will also need regular maintenance to prevent scale build up.
At the slightly pricier end of the scale are electronic taps which feature infrared sensors to activate and deactivate the flow of water. As the hand of the user does not touch the tap, hygiene is another major advantage.
As long as they are kept clean and tidy, making plugs available in all wash basins and sinks, and urging staff to use them when washing up, will also reduce the unnecessary running of taps. Just consider the amount of water your staff use to wash up - especially if they guzzle tea and coffee as much as us at Team C-Store. It could be a lot.
The staff toilet at the Lodsworth Larder store in West Sussex is slashing its water consumption by tackling both taps and toilets together with a clever integrated system. The wash basin and tap is fitted above the cistern, meaning that after washing hands water flows down the plug-hole to re-fill the cistern.
Perhaps the easiest water-saver of all is to repair all those dripping taps. Fixing the drips as soon as they are noted can save as much as 20 litres of water a day, and in most instances all that is required is nothing more complicated than a washer.