The impact of climate change to water usage

Climate change is having a significant disruption on water but not enough people are aware of their impact on this.

That was according to a panel of experts discussing how communities can better understand and manager their approach to water during this week’s Yorkshire sustainability conference, In the Circle.

Laying out the challenges was Gordon Rogers, head of long-term strategy at United Utilities. He pointed out a few stark statistics about the climate impact on water.

This included predicted sea levels rising 30cm by 2050 and 70cm by the end of the century which means flooding risks and massive disruption to the water systems.

Short term rises of water has already led to flash flooding across the UK, he said.

Equally, he stressed drought has also had an impact as well as a rising population which will see the need for more water consumption.

He said: “The world of water is hidden from a lot of people, certainly in the UK where we take water largely for granted and very few people have problems with their services on a day-to-day basis, unlike people living in India.

“The key challenge with water is to match supply and demand wherever we are in the world but climate change is disrupting the water systems.”

He added: “Globally it’s not just about what comes into our tap, we insource and consume water in products that we buy. So a classic cup of Costa coffee typically has 140 litres of water in one cup, so that includes water used to grow the coffee beans to transportation to the manufacturing of the cup. That’s 140 x water footprint that people are not aware of.”

Tom Williams, director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said people needed to understand how water connected with their everyday lives.

“We have billions of people around the world who don’t have access to safe and adequate water supply and sanitation,” he said.

“Globally 80 per cent of all water is discharged directly into the environment, that pollutes fresh water and causes climate change impact.

“And we’ve got huge inefficiencies in how we use water. Every country suffers from either too little or too much or too dirty water and some of those countries suffer all three and this disproportionately impacts poorer countries.

“Water connects to food, to energy, to lifestyle goods, and everyday choices would likely have water implications.

“The building sector globally is responsible for 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, water usage in the home is responsible for 16 per cent of energy in the home, if you start to reduce your energy usage in the home you are going to get lower energy bills and mitigate towards climate change.

“When you start expanding all that water discourse to include food, energy, lifestyle choices, that’s when you start to address people’s relationship with water and you can make them agencies of change.”

Niki Roach, president of Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management said challenges continued in how people were educated about their choices around water consumption while delivering costs savings with the environmental impacts.

She said: “Our membership is typically professionals working in the sector, and arguably should be the people articulating the challenges to people who are not that interested, but it is difficult.

“Do we educate people, or do we make it easier for people because for all of the people we will take with us, for many this is not a priority.

“So, is this about behavioural change or do we put this into policy or standards or do we design things out or do we have a mandatory water label.

“How do we architect an environment where it is easy for people so if they don’t want to think about it, they can still make better choices.”

Nigel Codman, director at Novaloo, helps businesses across the UK to slash water bills and their environmental impact using the Propelair toilet system.

He said: “Since 2020, companies have experienced a 25 per cent increase in water demands. This is due to necessary processes such as increased hand-washing, which isn’t going away.

“But the subsequent increased cost of this on their expenditure is adding up.

“Toilets that use far less water can make a massive difference to this problem.”

He added: “We are constantly surprised by how much water gets flushed. These toilets are simple, they use 1.5L of water with every flush. Places like universities, schools, businesses opening up again, even local authorities are looking into this.

“We want to help people understand there are simple ways to step up the way they save water.”