Conservation of one of our most essential resources
Being efficient with the water we use and avoiding polluting watercourses is critical for a sustainable built environment. Water is so ubiquitous in our daily lives that we take it for granted. Turn on the tap and there it is – clean, abundant and permanently available. And cheap too – one litre costs about a tenth of a penny.
However, the water we consume, and the wastewater we create, has significant impacts on the environment. Although it sometimes may not seem like it, parts of the UK often suffer from water scarcity. This doesn’t mean the taps will turn off any time soon, but the availability of water to meet all the demands from industry, business and households, let alone what nature needs to keep it afloat, often mean we get close to going short. As recently as 2018, proposals were put forward to transfer water from Wales to alleviate problems in South East England.
Add to this the considerations of the energy and materials required to make our water drinkable, and clean our wastewater before returning it to nature, and you soon realise that there is a lot invested in each and every litre of tap water.
And this is just in the UK. Elsewhere round the world water is often a critical scarce resource, either because of low rainfall, or mismanagement leading poor, leaky or non-existent infrastructure.
Water - Sustainability Short
In this animated video, learn why water is a significant issue for the construction sector and the about impacts it can have on our work and lives.
Knowing this can inspire us to be more efficient and sparing with the water we use and ensuring that any wastewater is properly treated and managed to avoid spills and pollution. Using collected rainwater for dust suppression instead of tap water, is one great example of lateral thinking and saving resources.
Direct water use is just one aspect. The manufacturing processes to make the goods we buy and use can also require significant quantities of water. Like embodied carbon – the energy gone into making something – we can talk about embodied water. A well-known example is fruit and vegetables imported from water scarce countries such as Spain. They are effectively exporting their water in the tomatoes we buy. The same can be said for some of the construction goods produced and imported.
Not only are responsible developers and contractors now measuring and reporting on the usage of potable water use on sites but they’re also calculating the water footprint of their supply chains. The Government has a target of reducing water consumption by 20% per person by 2030. This has been addressed in the recently updated Part G of the Building Regulations as well as in the Home Quality Mark.