Improving water efficiency is becoming one of the most important business strategies. Better management of natural water resources is crucial to create a resilient and sustainable future.
The extreme droughts and floods that the world has seen in 2022 have only confirmed this need. Water scarcity is already an everyday reality for many and is predicted to increase in the near future. The Earth’s most precious resource is becoming a growing concern.
As a result, water efficiency has become a sought-after idea in recent years. Thus, it is well worth understanding the term, its importance and possible implementation for your business.
What is water efficiency?
On a broad level, water efficiency means responsible use of fresh water and minimising wastewater.
There is no single, universally accepted definition of water efficiency. Generally, we refer to water-saving strategies and technologies. In a more practical sense, it is the process of measuring the amount of water needed for any particular purpose and ensuring that the consumption is limited to only that what is required.
Water efficiency, however, should not be confused with water conservation. Though both have the same goal of reducing and minimising water use, the terms have different meanings. Water conservation focuses on strategies and methods of restricting water usage. It is also a broader philosophy and framework, often used in policies and programmes, and everyday life. It ranges from international regulations to individual behaviour like closing the tap while brushing teeth.
On the other hand, water efficiency is about reducing water waste and mainly focuses on technology and innovation. It aims to achieve the same result or level of service you usually would, using the least amount of water necessary. The main idea is that better technology could help us do more with less water without sacrificing convenience. Better technology includes anything from fixing the existing infrastructure to using Artificial Intelligence. More about this later.
Both conservation and efficiency are important for businesses to understand and implement. In the current climate context, this is becoming urgent.
Why is water efficiency important?
The world has less and less fresh water, and societies can no longer delay adapting to this situation.
According to the UN, climate change affects and will continue to affect societies through water availability, quality, and quantity. Today, over 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries, and the number is likely to grow.
The extreme temperatures across Europe, the UK and North America made the impact of climate change on the water very visible. Almost half of the USA was considered in drought in 2022, while European countries have experienced water shortages and high-to-extreme forest fire hazards.
Climate change is only an additional layer of complexity to other pressures, like the increased population density. Partly because of that, the water demand across Europe has been steadily rising over the past 50 years. That has led to a decrease in renewable water resources per capita by 24%. In addition, intense agricultural production and industrial pollution are putting stress on an already difficult situation.
Better water management and efficiency are responses to water scarcity. The good news is that countries and industries are starting to embrace this. European Commission estimates that technological improvements alone could improve water efficiency by nearly 40%.
Moreover, resource efficiency makes good business sense. Optimising resource use typically leads to cost reductions and time savings. In buildings, in particular, that can be highly rewarding.
How can you improve water efficiency in buildings?
Despite the increasing water scarcity, the building sector uses and wastes a lot of water.
Shayp’s data across 5,000 buildings shows that 1 in 3 buildings is leaking every year, accounting for over 20% of their water usage on average. Yet, the majority of them stay unreported for a long time.
Leakages are not only a waste of water but a waste of other resources, like energy, labour and materials, that went into extracting, treating and distributing water. It also reflects on utility bills, making them hidden but costly issues.
Therefore, becoming more water-efficient is a big but worthy undertaking. There are different methods of improving water efficiency in buildings. Here are just a few.
Track water usage
Understanding how your buildings typically consume water is the first step towards better water efficiency. Tracking water usage will allow you to identify which areas contribute most to high water consumption.
In other words, you will be able to evaluate how different systems in various areas of your property or buildings use and potentially reuse wastewater. With a clear picture of water usage, you can better choose which water-saving strategies and technologies to implement.
Establish a water usage benchmark
Knowing your water consumption will also help establish a water usage benchmark. Using the past water consumption figures, you can set up a baseline for water consumption within your buildings.
Once you define the baseline, it is possible to use current consumption figures to compare and identify areas of improvement and potential to increase water efficiency.
Most regulations now require lower flow rates and more efficient plumbing fixtures. Replacing old fixtures with new ones ensures your buildings meet the latest standards.
Moreover, the latest plumbing fixtures, such as low-flow plumbing fixtures like faucet aerators, low-flow toilets, and high-efficiency valves, are designed with high efficiency in mind. So updating these can result in substantial water and energy savings.
Use alternative water sources
Implementing and using greywater distribution and runoff capture systems, like rain barrels, is a good way to reduce domestic and public water consumption. They are usually hard to implement on already existing structures, but nowadays, it is possible to instal water recycling systems at relatively low costs during major renovation projects.
This water is considered non-potable and is suitable for toilet flushing, cooling towers, irrigation, cleaning and similar uses.
Monitor and fix leakages
As we mentioned above, over 20% of water consumption in buildings is attributed to leakages rather than actual use. That means that large quantities of water go to waste every year, usually due to a lack of awareness that leaks are even happening.
Thus, monitoring leaks is essential for improving buildings’ water efficiency. Knowing when and where leaks happen will help you fix the issues quickly before they cause serious water loss or even damage. Reducing leaks will also reflect positively on your water and utility bills.
However, identifying leaks can be difficult and time-consuming. They often happen in hard-to-access areas, meaning most of them stay unreported for too long. That is why Shayp has developed easy-to-use water flow analytics technology.
Our 2ZERO software analyses regular water flow patterns in plumbing systems of any size. Thanks to AI, it quickly identifies leakage patterns not associated with standard water consumption. Leveraging your existing water meter data, the software gives you leak reports in-real time and helps find the most likely source.
Find out how Shayp can help you improve water efficiency in your buildings by booking a free demo.