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Bridge over Troubled Waters?

Richard Braid, Managing Director of Cistermiser and Keraflo, looks at the contribution the UK’s water management solutions businesses can play in the fight against climate change


As momentum builds during the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 in Glasgow, water companies and businesses supplying solutions to save and optimise how we use water, are being called on to transform their approach to tackling Climate Change. Just like other sectors, we need to play our role in getting the UK to Net Zero by 2030. That is less than a decade away.

It’s clear what will happen if we don’t achieve this target. Just last week, the Environment Agency has issued a frightening ‘do or die’ climate change warning. While this sensationalist headline may be deliberately intended to disquiet and galvanise governments, companies and individuals in preparing for global warming effects like higher sea levels, higher temperatures and subsequent and more extremes of rainfall and drought, the facts remain. The agency projects that even a small temperature rise of 20C (they’re predicting 30C) would have severe consequences on water: an extra 3.4 billion litres of water needed every day before 2050, on top of the 15 billion used now.


Race to Zero

While some progress is underway with the recent launch of the Heat and Buildings Strategy, electric cars / the potential death of the gas boiler, we all need to do what we can now. The industry’s Route to Zero Routemap identifies solutions including innovative water, wastewater, sewage treatment technologies, increasing renewable capacity, restoring peatland and grassland, planting 11 million trees, and transitioning to alternative fuels.

But there are products and solutions available now that can help each part of the water management sector take charge of our own fight against climate change.


Our most valuable resource

Water is at the heart of sustainable development and is vital for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change and is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change. Without proper water management, there is likely to be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors. It’s forecast that by 2030, 700 million people could be displaced by water scarcity. Ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable water and sanitation services is a critical climate change mitigation strategy for the years ahead.

This trend is being accelerated by climate change because floods, droughts and heat have a direct impact on the availability of the various types of water that humans need. Changing the way we use water will help to strengthen our planet’s ecosystem and reduce the risk of extreme weather events that make water more unpredictable, more polluted, and more scarce. This could involve using less fresh water for showering, collecting and using rainwater for growing crops or sanitation, or improving our systems for managing waste water. On top of this, using less warm water makes it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it avoids the need to generate energy to heat the water. By taking steps to consume less water when products are made and used, we can make sure water remains a human right – and does not become a luxury.

Against this backdrop I wanted to share some stats about water.


Water by numbers

  • There is a tendency to think that because water falls from the sky, and because most of the Earth’s surface is water, that we will never run out. But most of the water on Earth is saltwater (more than 90%). Of the remaining 10%, most of it is locked away in glaciers, or on mountain tops. Only a tiny amount of water on Earth is drinkable and 
  • Today, around the world, 1 in 3 people live without safe drinking water, and global water demand is expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2040.
  • 71 million people don’t have clean water close to home
  • 7 billion people don’t have a decent toilet of their own
  • According to an Environment Agency report, there is a serious risk that parts of England will run out of water within 20 years, MPs have warned.


The cost of lost water

  • Every single day more than three billion (that’s three thousandmillion) litres of perfectly good drinking water is wasted in the UK. That’s enough water to make 15 billion cups of tea, or to hydrate the entire population of Africa.
  • 54% of EU households have experienced water damage in their homes with most common causes being burst pipes, roof penetration, small pipe corrosion cracks, defective appliances. It’s no surprise that bathrooms are the most common location for problems – 30 %.
  • The UK has the highest financial cost in the EU to repair water damage. 45% of UK residents who experienced water damage were reimbursed for the damage the incurred. (Direct Line Home Insurance). T
  • The UK population spends £707million each year to repair damage caused by water leaking into their property from a neighbour’s property. (Water security survey 2017 – Grohe)
  • Leaky Loos: 400 million litres of clean water are estimated to leak from toilets each day, this is enough to supply the population of Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol combined.
  • Looking specifically at commercial washrooms in offices, hospitality and the public sector, a building with 100 toilets will have 2 toilet cubicles with leaky loos, which alone can equate to £3,000 extra on your water bill each year.
  • In summary, buildings waste 25% to 30% of water consumed.

I wanted to reference these statistics in £s and litres, as they illustrate the scale of the challenge we face now as all of the above contribute to climate change. Added to this of course, water use / waste, drains other resources too. It takes lots of energy to pump, treat, and heat water, all of which increase greenhouse gas emissions – in fact 3% of the National Grid is dedicated to water movement, heating and treatment.

Cistermiser has spent the last decade dedicated to innovating and providing products that help FMs, local authorities, health trusts and building owners significantly lower the carbon footprint of their buildings. Here’s how:

Sensazone Washroom Control Solutions

Sensazone can be tailored to control the services needed in each washroom. The infrared P.I.R. sensors pick up body movement which then triggers the activation of water and electrical services, as well as the room’s in-built fan. This means that, when the room is not being used, there is no water wastage nor any power usage.

Vecta+ Sensor Tap Range

Take a typical commercial premises which has 60 taps, used 5 times an hour, over an 8-hour day, operating 260 days per year. By switching to our Cistermiser’s Vecta+ Sensor Taps, just 1 tap would save enough water for 17,300 cups of tea pa, or provide enough water for an elephant for 324 days. Switching all 60 taps would be the equivalent saving of over 10 million cups of tea.


Toilet / urinals

Cistermiser has a long-standing commitment to water savings and that is a central design feature when it comes to our WC flushing and urinal controls. The Infrared Control Valve IRC®, a motion-sensing infrared urinal flushing control valve uses a P.I.R. sensor that detects movement which activates the solenoid valve, allowing water into the urinal cistern.

By installing these urinal control valves, water consumption is reduced by over 80%.

The WC Infrared flushing solutions (both mains and cistern driven) combined with our new Vecta+ Sensor tap range, can reduce the water consumption and unnecessary energy needed to heat water by up to 80%


LinkThru TMU

LinkThru TMU is designed to meet the practical water monitoring needs of FMs and maintenance professionals and is best known for its ability to act as an early warning system against the threat of legionella. But if also offers top environmental credentials. The cloud-based technology offers vehicle emissions savings from a ‘man in van’ travelling round to manually check different sites. It saves water at point of manual flushing checks – we estimate that if every NHS Trust in the UK installed LinkThru TMU, it would save wasting 1 BILLION, FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY MILLION LITRES OF WATER. That’s enough water to fill 624 Olympic sized swimming pools which joined end to end is 19.39 miles in length! Almost 0.5 million trees would need to be planted to offset this waste.


As a nation, we can wait for inevitable tighter legislation and societal pressure. But the team here at Cistermiser firmly believe that we should act now – and why wouldn’t we take responsibility and use energy saving solutions that are available, tried and tested and saving resources in 1000s of buildings across the UK.






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