Water and climate change

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By Carolyn Wincer, 1st March 2022

In this article, Travelife for Accommodation explains why water conservation should be considered just as important as energy reductions when businesses look to reduce their carbon footprint.

Reducing electricity, gas and fuel consumption is often, quite rightly, the first thing a business looks at when planning to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and these topics frequently dominate public discourse about climate change. However, the way we use water is often overlooked as a significant greenhouse gas contributor so in this article we attempt to explain why it should be prioritised along with energy, and provide some simple ideas for incorporating water conservation into your climate goals.

Why water is a climate issue

Water conservation is essentially about protecting the supply and quality of water. Although water is a renewable resource and therefore something that the planet is not likely to run out of any time soon, it is in very short supply in many regions and there are widespread issues with water quality. That means that reducing the use of water is always a good thing, along with protecting water sources from pollution so that it is a plentiful and viable source of life for everything on our planet, not just humans. 

What people often do not realise is that reducing water use also reduces greenhouse gas emissions due to the high energy cost associated with sourcing and treating water. This can happen directly through water a business consumes in bathrooms, kitchens, cleaning and so on, but can also happen indirectly through water used in the production goods a business procures such as food and beverage items.

The energy cost of water you won't see on your utility bill

Heating and cooling water has a high energy cost that is usually included in your electricity or gas bill, however, there are other emissions involved that can be improved by reducing overall water consumption.

Water sourcing and treatment

In most cases energy will be needed to pump water from the original source to storage and treatment facilities. Often equipment that uses energy is employed to treat water so that it is safe to use.

Supplying water to a building

Often energy is used to pump water through pipes to get it to wherever it will ultimately be used.

Handling wastewater

Although gravity is most commonly used to get water to drainage systems, in many cases energy will be required to get it to wastewater plants and to treat it so it can either be reused or put back into the natural environment.

How to reduce water consumption in your business

Step 1

Assess your current water use

This involves looking at the volume of water you are using and where it is being used. This will help you understand where you can make reductions and what to focus on first. For example, if most of your water use is from toilet flushing then you could achieve a quick reduction by reducing the flow rate so that less water is used per flush.

Step 2

Set water reduction goals and communicate them

You are more likely to make reductions if you set a measurable target. Telling staff and stakeholders about your environmental goals helps to keep your business accountable.

Step 3

Implement and communicate water reduction strategies

Find out what will work best to reduce water use and implement these strategies across your business. Be sure you read our 5 Quick Wins in Water Conservation article to help get you started with ideas.

Step 4

Monitor your water consumption

Take regular measurements so you can track progress in achieving your water reduction goals. Regularly monitoring water use can also help you spot leaks quickly, because you will easily see a sudden spike in usage.

Step 5

Review and reassess annually

It is important that each year you spend time reviewing your environmental performance against your targets. Find out why things did or did not work as well as you’d hoped and use this information to revise your goals and strategies.

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