Returns can be seen within 12 months when water quality challenges are addressed effectively, says Mike Malina
It is evident from all that is written on the subject of sustainability that the changes needed to reduce our collective carbon emissions and extravagant energy use will need to be significant.
If the ambitious Government targets to reduce our emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 are to be reached, then all of us are going to have to change our habits and accept that we will have to use less energy and be more efficient.
Consider our use of water. Many people forget just how much carbon and energy is used in processing and transporting our water. It's not just the actual water use; we also need to save the energy required to heat it. Water reduction measures need to be coupled with ensuring that water tanks and pipes are well insulated and time clocks and thermostats are used effectively.
Ultra clean teenagers
An example that made me realise how difficult it may be to change people's habits comes from what might be considered fairly trivial in the scheme of things. I've often joked about how it is possible for my teenage daughter practically to empty a 210 litre tank of hot water in the shower.
To help mitigate the effects of this, I fitted an in-line shower regulator and the effect was significant (although it did elicit some protests from my family). It was very effective in saving water, the energy and chlorine embodied in processing it and the energy used in heating it, as well as reducing the waste grey water.
Water is often regarded as a Cinderella service and is often neglected in the building services engineering sector.
In the 26 years I've been carrying out building energy surveys and audits, I have always looked at water use, but found it hard to make the issues register as important with clients. Now water is rising up the agenda and the changes brought in by Part G of the building regulations will make more of an impact and sharpen the focus on this vital resource.
Some amazing statistics have emerged in the course of the debate over water. For example:
The South East of England has less water available per person than the Sudan and less than most European countries.
The average Briton drinks three litres of water per day and uses 145 litres for washing flushing and cooking. In reality the average Briton actually consumes 3,400 litres per day because of the amount of water used in the cultivation and processing of our food, before it gets to our table. And, according to Unesco. it takes 400,000 litres of water to manufacture a single car.
The water used in our homes and businesses contains a lot of embedded carbon. The old theme of 'if you don't measure it - you can't manage it' is very apt in this context. The problem is that most houses are not on a meter.
So there is really no incentive to encourage people to use water more efficiently; water metering would make people much more aware of their water use... Or maybe not, until they see the bills as, just like the electricity and gas meter, it is 'hidden' in the white wall box outside, under the stairs or in the road; out of sight and therefore out of mind.
This is one of the many challenges that directly affects us in our daily lives. We will have to change our habits and accept that Niagara Falls in the shower is just a little excessive!
Of course, people will need to to make the link between their normal daily activities and the need to conserve resources including energy and water, as well as gaining a better understanding of wider climate change issues, and that will involve a great deal of education.