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UK SMEs Miss Out On Savings Due To Water Leakage

A STUDY has revealed that despite widespread concern over costs to businesses and record-high utility bills, 95% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are overlooking obvious cost savings, with the most neglected being water bills.

The independent survey of over 500 UK SMEs by County Durham-based water retailer Wave, revealed that just 5% of respondents are cutting down on water usage to address rising overheads, despite 87% responding that water is a vital part of daily operations.

With a backdrop of rising cost-of-living and soaring energy prices, water usage has slipped to the bottom of the pile when it comes to operational priorities. This highlights that many SMEs aren’t aware of how much their water is costing, or how much is being used, making it difficult to identify areas where savings can be made.

Wave urges SMEs not to underestimate the financial role water leakage plays in water billing and to move towards better water efficiency to positively impact business’s bottom lines and gain back some control of the numbers.

Oli Shelley, Head of Operations at Wave said: “As the cost of living consistently squeezes UK businesses, it really is a case of every penny helps and we encourage SMEs to explore all avenues for navigating the everyday savings that can be made across the board.

“When our SME customers receive a higher than ‘normal’ water bill this is generally the first time we find them taking notice of their water consumption. It sounds obvious but the most common reason for this is that they’re simply using more.

“We often find this is because an appliance onsite has broken and gone undetected, such as a leaking toilet or a damaged urinal, which act the same as any other leak. Whilst a basic appliance fault might not initially seem as though it could contribute towards your overall water consumption, having, for example, a urinal constantly running will cost you a significant amount of money – potentially up to £700 per year.”

Cost cutting isn’t the only consideration in reducing water usage. Businesses of every size are beginning to consider their overall environmental impact; not just to bring down unnecessary overheads, but recognising that staff consider a company’s environmental impact to be a key driver in deciding which employer they want to work for. Research conducted by Nielsen in 2019 found that 83% of millennials care considerably about ESG, implying that it would influence their choice of employer. So, in a candidate’s market, it is something to consider.

Wave has offered some practical tips to help SMEs start their water efficiency journey:

Check bathroom appliances.

Generally, a higher than usual water bill means an appliance onsite has broken, leaky loos or urinals being the usual suspects. Dual flush toilets typically use 4-6 litres of water as opposed to the old-style systems, which use a huge 13 litres per flush. Making the switch to a water efficient loo could cut the water usage from every flush in half. In addition to this, major cost savings can be made through installing urinal controls or waterless urinals, and automatic or sensor taps.

Leaky loos

A leaky loo wastes between 200 and 400 litres of water per day. That’s a jaw dropping 72,000 to 146,000 litres of water wasted every year which is enough to fill 180 inflatable hot tubs from just one leaking toilet. The good news is that it can be easy to identify. Often you can hear and see water continuously flowing down the back of the toilet bowl, but this test from Water Wise or can help you detect a slow leak:

  1. Add a few drops of food colouring or a leaky loo tablet, often available from your local wholesaler, to your toilet cistern.

  2. Leave it for an hour.

  3. If the food colouring is present in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.

Office kitchens.

A dripping tap is not only irritating, but it also could be wasting around 5,500 litres of water a year. Installing automatic taps or spray taps can help make a big difference to water consumption levels. Check whether your kitchen appliances have an eco-setting and use them if they do.

A change in staff working patterns.

Is someone doing something differently onsite which might be creating over usage? This may be unavoidable, for example, are more people opting to work in the office rather than home, and therefore increasing overall water consumption. Have you increased your staff base recently and therefore have more people contributing to daily use? You could consider promoting working from home on a rota system, to ease the burden on water (and overall energy) bills.

Become mates with your meter.

Most businesses have a water meter, so make sure you know where it is and get into the habit of submitting your reads monthly as it makes patterns, or issues easier to spot. And if you do suspect a leak, check your meter after you’ve closed when no water is being used, to see if water’s still flowing through it.

Eliminate external leaks.

Some are easier to spot than others, and many can often go unnoticed over time, increasing your chances of a burst pipe. You don’t always need specialist help to find a leak, the easiest thing you can do is follow our step-by-step leak and flow test guide.

Know where your stop tap is.

If a pipe freezes or bursts, you’ll need to switch off your water quickly. Find out where your internal stop tap is and check that it works, so that you’re confident you can turn off the water supply should you need to and help avoid damage and unnecessary waste.

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