It's one of the world's most precious resources and many businesses and buildings would struggle to remain operational without it, so why do most of us not give water a second thought?
The simple answer is that it is literally 'on tap', it's easy to access and seemingly-infinite. But for larger sites it can come at a hefty price if it's wasted or not managed carefully.
For operations, buildings or facilities managers tasked with cutting costs and improving environmental performance - a sometimes challenging situation we're constantly seeing more of - there are quick fixes and long-term solutions available to effectively keep on top of water usage.
The first step to any process of improving something is to review current practices and habits - and water usage is no exception.
At water2business we urge customers to take weekly water meter readings where possible for two important reasons. It can provide them with insight of the times of day when the most water is being used and why this might be, and it can help to spot leaks on internal pipework.
Leaks can be particularly detrimental to finances - so much so that a leak wasting 1m³ of water per hour can cost up to £13,000 a year - and to the environment, as more wastewater needs to be treated.
To go that one step further, building managers can request a water efficiency audit from us. For a one-off cost, experts can perform a full evaluation of all water facilities and outlets on a site to identify inefficiencies and potential leaks.
From there, recommendations can be made to install more efficient outlets such as urinals with control devices to restrict flushing times or rainwater collection systems. Some sites may also benefit from water saving devices to cut consumption in areas such as toilets and on-site showers.
Probably the most sure-fire way of a building becoming more sustainable is by engaging with the people who use it. When you change the attitudes of a building's inhabitants, be it employees or the public, not only do you save money and boost the building's environmental performance, but you also motivate those people to be more sustainable elsewhere.
This may sound a little daunting, but there is expert help at hand. Building managers can request for their water retailer to provide a series of tailored educational workshops or roadshows to inform occupants of the impact that excessive water use has on the environment, encouraging them to think more sustainably.
Following this, it's worth thinking about the content of these sessions and using it to inform a follow-up awareness campaign around the site. Displaying items like posters and stickers around areas such as kitchenettes, canteens, toilets or shower rooms works well. It's worth also using any internal communication tools, such as an intranet, where possible.
Ask any building manager what their top five priorities are at work and it's likely that the words 'emergency planning' will crop up. It's so important - mandatory even - to prepare for the event of a fire, extreme weather, power outages or an outbreak of disease, so why should water shortages be any different?
There are unfortunately times where major water mains burst, causing nearby properties to be without water for extended periods of time. Equally, an area could be subject to a contamination incident where people may be instructed not to drink or use the water until further notice.
For many structures such as factories and manufacturing sites, water is business critical and going without it could result in serious monetary losses. For other buildings such as hospitals, the loss of water is potentially life-threatening for sick and vulnerable people.
It's better to be safe than sorry, so setting up a water emergency and continuity plan is the smart thing to do. Building managers looking to set this up should consult with us to see what tailored solutions are available to their building.
For sites which are heavily water-reliant, delivery of bowsers and tanks for a temporary supply are available, along with other temporary infrastructure where necessary. For inhabitants, arrangements can be made to supply bottled water as per required volumes.
Thinking beyond the physical water supply, it's crucial that a building has a continuity plan that is logistically tailored to its needs. Managers should carefully consider elements such as service level agreements, agreed response times, key contacts, special measures and - for multi-site businesses - whether each site needs its own individual plan.
The value of water
For many people, both in work and at home, water is one of those classic commodities that you don't realise you can't live without until it's gone. For those in charge of large operational sites, this is a huge responsibility to have, on top of the other pressures and struggles of the job.
Help is out there though, so it's worth taking the time to shop around for the right water retailer which can meet all requirements. At water2business we offer leading customer service and tailored water and wastewater management that will help to improve efficiency and deliver savings. Managing water carefully and thinking beyond the tap can make a substantial difference to operational costs, improve preparation for emergencies and boost a site's sustainability contribution.