Saving Water to Save Carbon 

Saving Water to Save Carbon

As WaterSafe sponsors ‘Save Water Save Carbon Day’ during this year’s Water Saving Week, Policy and Project Manager at Waterwise Lydia Makin talks about our tap water’s carbon footprint and what we can all do to reduce it.

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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the key challenges of our time. We’ve all heard of a carbon footprint: It’s usually defined as the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation or product, and we all have our own ways and reasons for reducing our carbon footprint. But have you ever thought about the carbon footprint of your tap water? Just like everything else that is manufactured and transported, tap water has a carbon footprint of its own.

“Water falls from the sky, why does it have a carbon footprint?” I hear you ask... Well we take it out of reservoirs and rivers and it goes to water treatment plants. There are over 1,000 of these across the UK [1].They are like huge water factories with machinery and equipment that processes the water through filters, chemical processes and mixing and storage tanks, just like the production of other goods, this uses a load of energy. Once the water is treated, it has to be transported (often by pumps) through thousands of kilometres of pipes to where it’s needed.

Once it reaches our homes and businesses, we use more energy to heat it up for showers and hot taps. And remember once it’s been used, the water goes back into the sewers and has to be treated in wastewater “factories” again, until it's clean enough to be put back into the environment. Every bit of this process uses energy. 89% of carbon emissions in the water sector is attributed to "water in the home" and is mainly the energy for heating water, which is huge compared to the energy used for the treatment process, which is just 11%[2] [3].

The water sector contributes around 6% to UK total carbon emissions (about 34MtCO2e), more than 5% of that is from heating it in our homes and around 0.7% is from the water industry’s operations[4][5]. Water companies in England and Wales generate 2266 kilotons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, the equivalent of 377,598 average annual car emissions[6]. The fantastic news is that the UK water industry is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030, 20 years before the government national target. We were the first sector to set such an ambitious target. They are going to reach this target by: increased energy efficiency; increasing self-generated renewables; purchasing green electricity; providing biogas to the energy grid; rolling-out electric and alternative fuel vehicles; moving to electric-powered construction equipment; reducing emissions caused by wastewater treatment processes from released methane gas[7].

The water industry is doing its bit… and we need to make sure we aren’t wasting it when it gets to our homes. Especially hot water. So keep those showers short and hot water taps off when you aren’t using them. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not telling you to avoid tap water, quite the opposite! It’s much much more sustainable than bottled water. Please drink it and use it for hygiene purposes all you like. But let’s not waste it.

So … there you go, saving water is saving carbon.

If you’d like more information about why we should save water, join our one hour free webinar, sponsored by WaterSafe, which will outline 10 reasons for saving water in the UK. Follow this link for more information.

[2] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/Guidance%20on%20water%20and%20associated%20energy%20efficiency.pdf

[3] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291728/scho0708bofv-e-e.pdf

[4] https://www.ofwat.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/prs_inf_emissionssup.pdf

[5] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291728/scho0708bofv-e-e.pdf

[6] https://www.discoverwater.co.uk/energy-emissions

[7] https://www.water.org.uk/news-item/2020-budget-a-huge-opportunity-to-take-a-bold-step-towards-a-net-zero-carbon-future/


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