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Implement a water minimisation programme

The costs for water supply, treatment and disposal have increased in recent years. Implementing a formal water minimisation programme will help go beyond your quick wins to achieve more significant cost savings.


Due to the energy intensity of water supply and wastewater management, water prices have risen steadily over the last 10 years and are likely to continue to mirror increasing energy prices. Reducing your organisation’s water use can help you identify opportunities for improving processes that may have been missed by other resource efficiency initiatives and, when managed correctly, water and wastewater reduction initiatives will help reduce your utility costs.

Reducing your organisation’s water use also benefits the environment by reducing pressure on water resources, and by reducing the carbon impacts associated with the pumping of water, and the treatment of waste water.

Organisations that have already taken action to minimise their water use are generally motivated by one or more key drivers:

  • The need to cut costs associated with water use, treatment and disposal
  • Rising costs for water supply and disposal
  • More stringent legislative requirements associated with waste and water management
  • Increasing consumer pressure resulting from environmental concerns
  • The requirement to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (in particular, carbon dioxide) to improve the image of your organisation and help mitigate climate change

Develop a water mass balance

Investing time to understand how water is used on your site can lead to significant cost savings. If you have to treat or heat water prior to using it, then the savings potential is increased in line with these additional costs. For organisations who have yet to implement water efficiency measures, adopting a systematic water reduction approach typically results in a 20-50% reduction in water consumption.

The first step is to understand how much water you use and where. You can establish your consumption by reviewing your water bills and reading your water meters. To gain an understanding of where water is used on your site, we recommend that you develop a water mass balance.

The water mass balance works on the principle that water cannot simply disappear and that everything that enters your organisation can be accounted for i.e. what comes in, must go out.  By developing a water mass balance you will understand where water is used in your organisation, identify which activities are producing wastewater, and understand your greatest cost saving potential.

To build a water mass balance produce a simple pictorial representation, or flow diagram, of your site, marking:

  • Your water supplies (e.g. mains, rainwater, abstracted)
  • Major uses of water
  • The location of on site water meters
  • Where water leaves your site in product or evaporation
  • Points where ‘value’ is added to the water (e.g. chemicals or energy)
  • Points where wastewater and/or trade effluent enters the drainage system

Quantify water and effluent volumes for each activity through direct measurement and monitoring, or estimation. Consider where you think water might be lost such as in manufactured product; emissions to the atmosphere; spillages; leaks; and overflows.

If processes are not already sub-metered, you can take measurements yourself (e.g. ‘bucket and stopwatch’ approach) or infer the volume for each activity using manufacturer data, ‘typical use’ information or simply through estimation. Annotate your pictorial representation with the data you have collected and highlight any relationships between operations. Each major activity should be represented by a box with water supply inputs and outputs shown by arrows.

By adding up all your incoming water supplies and all of your site outputs you can check for discrepancies. Aim to account for 80 – 90%. If this is not possible, this may point towards a significant level of evaporation, water in product; or water leakage.

Once you have an idea of what your most water intensive processes are, and if there are any potential leaks or inefficiencies, you can focus your water minimisation programme on areas where it is likely to be most effective.

Further Information

If you would like further advice and support to help you implement a water minimisation programme, please contact one of our resource efficiency advisors on 0808 808 2268 or contact us.

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