In the UK water conservation has been on the agenda and largely dismissed by the public for years. Our growing population combined with increased demand through lifestyle choices, is going to result in critical water situations more regularly, particularly in the driest parts of the country. The ineffectiveness of consumer education means the industry must look for alternatives to reducing water usage.

To coincide with COP26, there is a wide range of projects, public education events and even TV series telling us how to improve our ‘lifestyle’ to minimise our impact on the environment. Although droughts, and floods have been highlighted, the general day to day use of water is rarely mentioned. In the UK water services are cheap and we never have true rationing of supply (the occasional hose pipe ban just doesn’t count). For just a few pounds, domestic customers can have a tonne of high-quality drinking water delivered to their taps, then taken away and cleaned up. Although the financial cost of supplying and cleaning water is relatively low, the environmental impact isn’t – 40gm of carbon for each 1m3, whether that’s making it ready for consumption or to return it to the environment.

To reduce the environmental impact of water usage Defra set a target of reducing the average personal daily consumption from 143l to 110l by 2050.

‘Smart metering’ has been shown to have some impact on domestic consumption. However, aging infrastructure with multi household supplies are amongst the many factors that ensure that mandated metering – let alone ‘smart metering’ is not likely to be rolled out nationally in the short term.

If we can’t change mindset, change the supply

Our water companies are regulated to provide a minimum level of water, but in many areas due to network structure and gravity fed systems supply is much greater. So, run a hose for five minutes at the bottom of the hill, and your lawn will be greener that the gardener that does the same at the top. These ‘time controlled’ uses, e.g. teeth cleaning, taking a shower, running a tap to rise dishes could be standardised down if all households received the same acceptable, ‘standardised’ supply.

Defra’s target is a 33l reduction. Groundbreaker’s NRv2 LoFlo® is a surprisingly simple method of working towards that target. Independent research carried out by WRc, showed a theoretical reduction of 2-4% of typical water usage. However, recent field trials by a major UK water company are showing reductions in excess of 37l per day (for one or two person households) – a saving in per capita consumption in excess of 10%

NRv2 LoFlo® modulates the level of flow entering customer premises – regardless of network pressure, meaning a reduction in the level of water used by customers when ‘variable use’ appliances (i.e. showers, taps, hosepipes) are used. As the flow of water into the premises is limited, then the amount used by the customer is also limited – but without providing a degradation of service, and more importantly not requiring any intervention or behavioural change on the part of the customer, leading to ‘natural’ reduction in per capital consumption.

A number of flow modulation ranges are available which enable the perfect balance between usage reduction and service provision. As an added benefit, the NRv2 LoFlo® can also provide whole site protection against contamination by back flow.

The NRv2 LoFlo® can be easily and simply retrofitted to any meter installation, or meter exchange when upgrading or remediating underground meter chambers. Thus, allowing Water Companies to manage demand with little or no impact on consumers and at minimal cost to the water undertakers – effectively a 3 in 1 solution.

A simple solution at approximately £20 per household, fitted on the normal meter exchange/upgrade cycle could achieve 20% of our consumption target in 10 years.

Groundbreaker products are compliant with all Regulations and defined criteria and are used extensively across the whole of the UK water supply network – whether that be North of Scotland or the Channel Islands.

Steve Leigh FIWater, Managing Director

Groundbreaker Systems won the HBF’s ‘Utility of the Year’ in 2018.