Climate change’s affects on weather patterns means that water scarcity is becoming a reality in some parts of the world and the UK will not escape these impacts. Adaptation to these impacts will see the need to reduce consumption and careful water management will become vital in the coming years. The University is committed to managing our water use effectively to ensure that we protect this limited and increasingly precious resource.
In July 2021 the University achieved significant reductions against all of its 5 year targets which were set in the 2016-21 Carbon and Water Management Plan. For non-residential properties there have been cuts in water consumption of 38%-40% and for residential reductions of 23%-27% (compared to a 2011/12 baseline). These figures are presented as ranges due to the uncertainty of impacts of temporary COVID-19 related reductions in operations.
Two specific areas of work have made a large impact and enabled these reductions to be achieved:
• Our science laboratories are both energy and water hungry. The University has invested over £450,000 in water saving technology for labs over the last decade. For example a centralised vacuum and chilled water system has been installed in our Chemistry teaching laboratories, replacing previously wasteful and inefficient old solutions.
• In summer 2020 the University and Thames Water checked every washroom across our campuses, fixing leaks and installing water saving devices such as low flow taps. These measures are now saving millions of litres of water each year.
How we will save water in the future?
As many water reduction measures have now been implemented, it will now become increasingly important to target water reductions per staff and student. Reducing water consumption will form part of the forthcoming Schools and Functions behaviour change work, which will look to work with departments to reduce their environmental footprints.
It is also recognised that a key priority is to improve metering across our estate. We currently have an Energy Assistant working through Campus Jobs to support the re-introduction of our meter reading app. This is enabling a regular series of readings to be taken in order to help identify the key buildings that should be prioritised for improvements to metering. Once the metering has been improved, we will understand patterns of consumption better and this will feed into our engagement with Schools and Functions.