Blog Post: Wednesday June 13, 2018
Southern Water Target 100 and key lessons from water efficiency work to date
Guest blog post by Ben Earl, Water Efficiency Manager, Southern Water
Southern Water is setting a demand reduction target to reduce per capita consumption to 100 litres per person per day across its region by 2040. The South East of England is officially declared as ‘water stressed’ and with population growth and future climate scenarios suggesting lower water availability then balancing supply and demand is in even greater focus.
Target 100 is not just about reducing water consumption; it is about shifting society to value water. In a climate restrained world Southern Water is aiming to be at the forefront of taking action to effectively manage water resources, keep bills affordable, drive innovation and support customers.
The Universal Metering Campaign was an important intervention carried out across its region. With 88% of its customer base now on metered charges a resulting 16% reduction in water use has been a dramatic impact. Southern Water now wants to go much further and provide an ongoing bespoke programme of products, advice, services and incentives to help every customer connect with their campaign.
A number of key lessons have been learned from its recent water saving programme, the first of which is that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. The water saving home visit programme is exceptionally popular with each visit designed to provide specific water saving information, clear advice and bespoke water saving product installation for each home. Innovation on the programme has seen a free fix of a leaking toilet, an e-mailed customer report and an installed water butt at the time of visit. A new scheme to replace basin taps is shortly to be tested.
The second lesson is that the link between water saving and affordability issues is very close. Often customers who are struggling to afford their bills are also those with high water consumption patterns. By working closely with social housing providers and local authorities, such as that happening in Brighton & Hove, then real joined up benefits for customers can be realised.
Thirdly, more and more evidence is building that targeting water efficiency towards specific catchments can help to keep bills down. Southern Water worked with the Green Alliance on a report that stated how important it is to do this and integrate this into its catchment approach to be the most cost effective.
The fourth lesson is that incentives can play an important role in changing customer behaviour. We know how dramatic the changes have been since the introduction of the 5 pence plastic bag charge was introduced across the UK. Single plastic bag use has plummeted and the race is now on to find that all important equivalent in the water industry. To test this Southern Water introduced a ‘community incentive’ to share the proceeds of water savings on a community scale – in this case in Hampshire. The project has saved between 5 – 7% and is now part of a scheme to roll out incentives to 1.6 million customers in AMP 7.
Finally, customers need to feel more connected with how much water they are using. Southern Water is building on its metering project by testing a simple ‘water bit’ clip on device, crucially to those that want it, to enable each customer to see real time displays, linked to consumption data and its incentives package.