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How Your Lifestyle Is Inflating Your Business Risk

Alarmingly, data has shown that the amount of freshwater available for each person has plunged by a fifth over two decades. Yet water use has been increasing worldwide by about 1% per year since the 1980s.

Findings from the Great British Rain Paradox survey warns that people are largely unaware of the imminent threat of water scarcity. So much so, 72% of the British public believe the UK has enough water to meet daily demands.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of England’s Environment Agency, said: “People might wonder how a country with such a reputation for rain like the UK could reach a tipping point where demand for water outstrips supply in just 25 years. But this may become a reality if we don’t take action to save water now.

“The fact is a convergence of factors… has led us to this frightening prospect. But if we all take concerted action now, we can ensure that there will be enough water to go around for generations to come.”

But what is it about our lifestyles that’s causing pressure on our water resource? And what’s the imminent risk to your business?

We explore four key areas:

  • Domestic
  • Leisure
  • Pleasure
  • Diet

Domestic

Domestic water use has grown 600% over the past 50 years.How domestic water use has increase since 1976

A consistently increasing trend in the proportion of household water used is for personal washing, which is backed up from observations of the transition from a weekly bath to daily showering.

A survey in 2013 identified that 70% of the population have a full body wash at least daily, mostly by showering.

Showering used to be considered more water efficient than a bath, and it is if you take a five minute shower. This will use about half the amount of a typical bath of 80 litres. However, shower times vary greatly. Research into adolescent showering practices indicates that average shower times of 20 minutes are typical in this age group. On another note, 29% of people still leave the tap running while brushing their teeth.

 

An increase in wealth has seen a rapid rise in ownership of white goods, which account for much of the water consumption in the kitchen. 97% of households report using a washing machine, and 41% have a dishwasher. A modern automatic washing machine uses about 50 litres of water per wash and is often used 4.7 times each week. That’s 235 litres a week.

According to Met Office projections, the Earth’s temperature for 2021-2025 is likely to be between 0.91°C and 1.15°C above what they were in the years from 1850-1900, with a central estimate of 1.03°C.  It’s not surprising that rising temperatures in summer often coincide with rising outdoor water use, primarily due to an increase in lawn and landscape watering. Hoses and sprinklers typically use about 1,000 litres of water an hour – the equivalent of more than twelve baths. This increased use can be a challenge for all water companies as daily demand goes up by hundreds of millions of litres more than usual.


Think you know water? Take the water quiz to test your knowledge and learn more about the UK’s position.Take the water quiz to test your knowledge

Leisure

DeliotteHow leisure is increasing overall water demand recently reported a significant uplift in spending intentions on eating out, drinking in cafes and pubs, and on culture and entertainment. With pent-up demand and disposable income, swimming pools, gyms, golf courses, restaurants, pubs and hotels have seen huge increase in demand recently, and over the coming months.

In our recent Leisure Sector Water Insights Report we found that out of our customers, excluding industrial and agricultural users, leisure sites rank number one for water usage with an average daily usage of 19.32 m³ in 2018.

In the leisure sector, water use is constant. Even when sites are closed, daily flow never reaches zero, often due to pool cleaning, legionella tap flushing and wastage through faulty taps and pipes. When open, water consumption is intrinsically linked to the customer experience.

More water typically = happier customers.

With household disposable income, job security, job opportunities and general health and wellbeing seeing consistent improvement not just in the short-term following COVID-19 recovery, but over the long-term, leisure demand is set to increase. And subsequently, so too will overall consumption of water to meet this demand.

Pleasure

With many Brits spending more time in their garden due to lockdowns and travel bans, coupled with cash refunds from subsequent cancelled holidays, an increase in disposable income and socioeconomic development, many have splashed out on hot tubs, swimming pools and jacuzzies. Some households even choosing to rent them for special occasions and events.

It’s not surprising that hot tub sales have increased. Ebay alone saw hot tub orders soar by 1,080% in April 2020.

But what most don’t know is by following manufacturer guidelines, a typical hot tub will use a minimum of 12,000 litres of water per year*, and often even more. That’s around half a year worth of daily showers.


* based on 1000 litres water capacity, requiring a water change at least once a month

Diet

Food and water are inherently connected. Food generally accounts for two-thirds of your water footprint, and meat is often the biggest factor. A typical beef burger requires about 3,000 litres of water alone. The beef, cheese, bun, lettuce and tomato all require water to grow and irrigate.

A balanced human diet of 3,000 kcal/day calculated at 20% meat and 80% vegetable, requires 3-4m3 of water per day, or 21x the average daily household water consumption of 142 litres per person.

Many who have utilised the water footprint calculator have learnt that diet overwhelmingly accounts for the largest part of a person’s water footprint, even when compared to taking long showers or flushing the toilet every time it’s used.

According to data published in a new report by Global Meat & Poultry Trends, meat consumption worldwide is expected to increase 1.4% per year through to 2023. With nations in Africa and the Middle East forecast to register the fastest increases in meat consumption as rising living standards and income levels allow more people to incorporate meat into their regular diet.

Water requirement per tonne of food product

Over the last 50 years, population growth and subsequently, food production, has risen exponentially. This has created a paradox. On one hand a rise in levels of food production is speeding up climate change and increasing water demand, while on the other, climate change and water scarcity is threatening food production. To feed everyone on our planet and secure our most vital resource, water, we need to review our eating habits. The products we choose to eat directly affect our food eco-footprint.

Water: risky business

The urgency of the water challenge we face has been highlighted with the warning from the Environment Agency that England will not have enough water to meet demand within 25 years unless major changes are made. The World Economic Forum listed water scarcity as one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Our water intensive lifestyles are putting huge pressure on our water resources, invisible pressure on your business and increasing your operational risk. The potential risks that your business is liable to range from:

  • Rising costs, reduced supply
  • Business interruptions
  • Mandatory restrictions
  • Possible need to relocate
  • Lost jobs & lost customers
  • Reputational damage

Businesses also contend with supply chain risk. “It’s not just the volume of water available to a business itself that managers should be concerned about,” says Tom Fioretti, Chief Risk Engineering Officer for Zurich North America. “Businesses need to carefully assess their business partners and ensure that they have reliable access to a supply of water that allows them to operate as well.”

Looking ahead

Water is under imminent threat. It’s time to get proactive on water, safeguard our most precious resource, secure your supply and the future success of your business.

Businesses such as Whitbread, BT, Greene King and Sainsbury’s are taking measured steps to secure their water future. Steps that you can take too to make water work for you. Learn more about the steps here.

 


Interesting resources: