When England’s non-domestic water market opens during April 2017, the knock on effects for the industry as a whole could be far-reaching. Not only will the change provide a financial impetus for industry players to innovate, and for businesses to rethink the way they use water; it will also create a perfect opportunity for reassessment of the long term environmental impact of high-level water consumption. Those businesses seeking to enhance their credibility by being more ‘green’ will already have one eye on the latest developments in water-efficiency tech.
So, what options are already available for businesses wanting to make cost reductions whilst also nurturing their environmental sensibilities? And what will water saving technology look like in the not-too-distant future?
For businesses with large staff numbers, or those who welcome visitors or the public onto their premises, efficiencies in the bathroom can make a significant difference to water spend. The retail and leisure sector is already taking advantage of developments such as infrared taps and tap timer settings that limit how much water is dispersed with every use. Other options are also available, such as: infrared sensors near urinals to ensure that the flush only operates when needed, and shower heads that push air out during use to maintain a powerful flow with less water. Broken toilet cisterns are a common culprit when it comes to wasted water, so simply fixing or replacing these can help to drive efficiency and lower costs. For pubs, restaurants, hotels and leisure centres, thinking about the way customers spend a penny could be the key to making sure their business doesn’t spend more than it needs to on water.
Centrica plc recently announced that it had added water technology firm FlowGem to its growing portfolio, which centres around IoT technologies. Flowgem are a UK based company developing technology that can remotely detect water leaks and provide the information to users via a mobile app. Whilst Centrica have their efforts focused on the domestic, rather than business, user – their latest acquisition will help them to expand their Connected Home offering – for businesses wishing to take more control of their water efficiency measures, a range of commercial options for leak detection are appearing in the marketplace. Water leaks are not only costly for businesses, but also increase the pressure being placed on resources and raise the likelihood of pollutants affecting the quality of water supplies. Early detection devices are being developed as the first line of defence against leaks and include pressure and acoustic sensors, which can be used to pinpoint problems and are connected wirelessly to cloud-based monitoring systems to give real-time information that is reliable enough to act upon.
Right now, and looking forwards, technology for gathering and processing data will be of the utmost importance for heavy water users. Not only will this data help businesses to allocate funds and efforts to reducing water wastage in the most appropriate way, it will also help them to track ROI and the efficacy of the measures that are put in place. Water meter readings are typically bi-annual – meaning businesses are unable to glean enough insight into usage to target problem areas or make effective changes. Better data would not only help companies to gain an understanding of their water use, it would also provide the inspiration to change processes and the satisfaction of seeing results from doing so. As in the energy world, AMR technology is growing in popularity and could make a real difference. Spikes in usage could even help to detect leaks, without the need for specialist leak-detection equipment. Whilst AMR is currently an expensive choice, it may be the right one for companies with only a small number of sites to focus their efforts on, of where water-efficiency is a high priority. A less expensive alternative is the installation of camera equipment into the water meter area, to provide twice-daily readings without requiring access to the meter, which may be located away from site buildings or need to be reached via a pot-hole.
For businesses who would like to know more about water efficiency but are unsure where to begin, help is available. A professional water audit is often a great place to start and will provide solutions which are made to measure for your business. For manufacturers using large volumes of water during daily processes, water recycling may also be an option. An engineer visit could help to determine whether grey water could be reused elsewhere on site to reduce consumption and save on costs.