Would water saving measures cut your business costs? Island House Community Centre saved 50% on their annual water bill!

Greening Island House

Island House Community Centre on London’s Isle of Dogs – a Green Mark certified organisation since 2008 – has placed sustainability at the core of its policies and practices. The organisation provides services which support local community groups; at the same time they aim to save resources and reduce operational costs. Thanks to a comprehensive Environmental Management System (EMS), Island House is able to identify, monitor and reduce the negative environmental impact of its activities. This also helps with measuring and demonstrating to the board of trustees and stakeholders the savings achieved on a quarterly basis.

Island House saves around GBP 400 a year in water bills.

Gulbahar B Gibson who is coordinating all ‘greening Island House’ activities says that “We were looking for possible ways to make our organisation greener and more efficient. One of the areas we looked at was the water consumption and bills we paid. We contacted our water supplier and were advised to fit water meters. We were happy to go ahead with that suggestion because it is a greener and fairer option, we can measure what we consume and control our bills”.

Island House currently has two water meters. In 2009, they switched to a water meter in their Main Hall area, where a number of community activities (e.g. dance and training classes, nursery and family activities) take place seven days a week. The result was almost 50% savings in their water bill. Following this success, in 2012 they fitted a water meter in their Manse area, where office related activities are based. The annual savings they made were above 70%.

Steve Hill, Centre Director of Island House has consistently monitored consumption and cost of utilities since 2007; he says that “Fitting water meters was an excellent water saving measure for us. We also introduced smaller cisterns in the toilets, fixed leaking taps and put easier to use cut-off valves on the garden hose to ensure they were properly switched off. We also put reminder notices at every kitchen sink and on kettles requesting people only use as much water as they need. We reduced the number of times we use the dishwasher by encouraging good old fashioned washing up and thanks to these simple measures, we save around GBP 400 every year in water bills.” Steve carries on to say that “This is very important to us because we are a small charity and we fight to spend our budget efficiently”

Apart from the financial benefits that Island House has achieved by reducing their water bills, they are also very proud of their contribution to water conservation. Steve says that “It is easier to influence staff and clients to reduce water consumption when we are measuring water use and we display on our notice board the graphs that show our achievements!”

“Also, in 2013, we had a leak; an underground pipe in our garden burst; we would not have noticed it if we did not have a water meter and see the abnormality in the volume of the water we spent.”

Looking beyond this example, the overall flow of water in any area is of course variable, with droughts and excess precipitation occurring from time to time. Also water is unequally distributed; water supplies in London are under stress due to relatively low precipitation, over-abstraction, pollution and the very old, Victorian, water supply system. Population growth and climate change will only intensify these problems. Consequently, water saving measures are vital for an uncertain future.

Possible savings through switching to a water meter

Non-households are usually charged for water and sewerage services on the basis of the amount of water they use, and the amount of wastewater and trade effluent they discard. The more water a business uses, then the more waste water it usually discards.

Some organisations that do not have a meter are charged in the same way as unmetered household customers. This means that their bill consists of a fixed charge (the ‘standing charge’) and a charge related to the rateable value of their property i.e. the rental value of the property based on a Local Authority assessment.

However, organisations that do not currently have a water meter could choose to have one fitted free of charge and could in turn save money. This depends on various factors including:

  • how much they pay now
  • the type of activities they undertake (water intensity)
  • the number of employees /clients they have
  • how much water they use
  • the reteable value of their property (location and size of the property)
  • the appliances they use
  • building maintenance

Water suppliers are able to advise their customers on whether they think they could save money by switching to a water meter. Some company websites have on-line calculators to help customers decide whether they will save money by switching.

Water saving advice for office based businesses

1. Produce and implement a water policy, which should include:

  • A simple statement about the organisation and its commitment (from all levels) to responsible water usage
  • Why a water policy is important for your organisation
  • Actions taken to review and lower your water use and to ensure continual improvement

2. Key actions can include:

  • Communication of your water policy to employees (through induction & training, meetings, emails, intranet, posters, employee questionnaires, quizzes etc.) and external stakeholders (e.g. through your website)
  • Undertake water review to identify overnight/weekend wastage (by taking meter readings at the end and start of next day) over a period of 5/7 days every quarter
  • Water efficiency measures for toilets: by installing: cistern dams/hippos if necessary; low flush toilets/dual flush cisterns; waterless urinals; percussion/spray taps
  • Water efficiency measures for kitchens: install percussion/spray taps; use water efficient settings in the appliances
  • Check and maintain the water pipes
  • Install a water reuse system (rain/grey/process water)

For more information about Island House Community Centre’s activities visit: www.island-house.org.uk

For more information about fitting a water meter visit: www.ofwat.gov.uk

The 2014 water price review

This is Ofwat’s current process for setting the price and service packages (‘price controls’) that each incumbent company (i.e. the main water suppliers) must deliver over the five years between 2015 and 2020. Ofwat is setting up to four price controls for each company. One of these is for the retail services that companies deliver to their non-house hold customers (the ‘non-house hold retail price control’). For further information visit: www.ofwat.gov.uk

About Green Mark

Green Mark is an environmental certification scheme which helps organisations to:

  • Manage their environmental impacts
  • Save money and resources
  • Evidence a commitment to sustainability

GLE is currently providing free Green Mark certifications to ESF funded organisations, as part of the ESF Technical Assistance programme. This support is available for organisations who hold an ESF contract directly, and those who participate as a formal partner.

To find out more telephone 02036 971253 or email greenmark@carbonarchitecture.co.uk

Visit http://www.green-mark.co.uk.