Waterwise Conference 2019
JFDI Consulting attended the annual Waterwise Conference in London on March 19th & 20th 2019. Highlights of the conference included an emotive keynote speech from Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, warning that the UK could be facing climate change related water shortages within 25 years. “We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea.” he said.
Sir James added “Water companies all identify the same thing as their biggest operating risk: climate change.” He also explained that by 2040, more than half of our summers are expected to be hotter than the 2003 heatwave, leading to more water shortages and between 50-80% less water in many rivers each summer.
“While there will be political challenges, there should be less difficulty over the economics,” Bevan states. “That’s because the investment needed to increase our resilience is modest compared with the cost of not doing it. While a severe drought would cost each household more than £100, the cost per household of the investment that would greatly reduce the risk is only £4 a year.”
OFWAT currently commits all water companies to effecting a reduction in network leakage of 15% by 2020, but the companies have also committed to a 50% reduction by 2050.
“We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea”
Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive, Environment Agency
The UK water deficit is a two-sided coin; whilst work is being done to increase supply, reducing demand to reasonable levels is perceived as the only viable option. However there’s no national target for PCC, or Per Capita Consumption. In JFDI’s area, Southern Water’s Ben Earl, Water Efficiency Manager, has committed the company to a PCC of under 100 litres per person per day, under the Target 100 initiative. Other water companies aren’t quite so ambitious.
Exhibitors and key sponsors Methven showed their water saving devices, including shower heads which shape the spray in order to deliver a great shower experience but with significantly less water. Tap inserts to do the same sort of job, similar to the Bamford WaterBlade, were also shown.
The Institute of Customer Service used the conference to present a comprehensive piece of research conducted on behalf of the water industry by into water usage habits. This research made it clear that most people have no idea of how much water they use overall, or indeed how much a toilet flush uses. However it also highlighted some shocking ways in which consumers waste water, including flushing all the toilets upon returning home from work; or running taps through the night to avoid frozen pipes; as well as some more usual wasteful habits such as running the tap when brushing teeth.
Several water companies talked about their trials with smart metering. Smart metering can deliver much more frequent meter readings to both water company and consumer. More data gives the supplier the opportunity to better model water usage compared to current events. If fed back to customers Smart Meter data can give them a new awareness of how much water they use daily.
Some water companies started with more metered customers than others, with around 50% of households remaining unmetered in the UK. Among the water companies, early adopters of metering and even smart metering are now faced with having to replace meters yet again in order to get the more frequent readings they need to begin the complex and hard task of bringing about a change of consumer behaviour. John Russell of OFWAT and David Hinton of South East Water both asserted that without using behavioural psychology, it will be hard to engage consumers, a point with with JFDI wholeheartedly agrees.
When replacing existing meters, water companies need to satisfy their Sustainability and Circular Economy policies. This is problematic when procurement departments prioritise cost over all else, but accepted as inevitable when there’s shareholders’ dividends to protect. There’s also the question of what to replace old meters with. Many competing systems and technologies crowd this space in the market. Some use fixed LoRaWan or Sigfox networks; the former requires companies to build their own network infrastructure, which is painfully costly; the latter at least allows them to rent a telco’s existing network, but still at some considerable cost.
JFDI’s Eaudometer® works around all these problems. Eaudometer® retrofits to existing meter stock, reducing the waste of scrapping old meters; it feeds data back to the consumer, giving immediate awareness of consumption and alerts; and it transmits regular readings to the water company without any new infrastructure investment, allowing immediate modelling and prediction of water consumption across the supply network.
JFDI’s Director of R&D Jon Silver said “This year’s Waterwise conference has been an eye opener for us. We’re confident Eaudometer has a part to play in the UK’s need for water economy. It’s clear how much the industry is doing to mitigate the supply/demand deficit. It’s even clearer how much it still has to do. The water companies must review their procurement policies to embrace sustainability and the circular economy, to ensure they can conquer the challenges of the near future.”
He added “UK water companies need to stop just talking about innovation and put real investment into it. Many of the answers to their urgent needs may come from outside the utility industry.”