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Making a Call for Innovation and Shared Responsibility

Waterwise is proud to be a facilitator of collaborative work that is inclusive and reflective of the ambitions of all. We were therefore honoured to have an Early Career Professional speak at our event to launch the UK’s Water Efficiency Strategy to 2030. Joe Cahill is a Social Science Researcher and University of Manchester KTP Associate at Artesia Consulting. We hope you find good food for thought and calls to action in Joe’s thought-provoking speech:

As a social science practitioner and someone early in their professional career in water efficiency, I’m going to share some personal reflections on the strategy and the future of water efficiency to 2030 and beyond. 

First of all, I’d like to see greater innovation and transparency in what water use data we collect and how this is used to understand demand. This could include greater experimentation with different types of data sets includes more qualitative data alongside consumption and smart meter data. This would enhance our understanding of how exactly people use water at home, what influences this and what exactly changes across normal and peak demands.

We need to continue to understand the diversity in water behaviours and practices, as climate change, increasing populations, new trends and wider factors like the pandemic continue to change demand behaviours and our ability to help create water efficient communities.

We need to continue to understand the diversity in water behaviours and practices, as climate change, increasing populations, new trends and wider factors like the pandemic continue to change demand behaviours and our ability to help create water efficient communities.

By 2030, I’d like to see more shared responsibility for water efficiency. Put simply, this responsibility extends beyond households and water efficiency managers. I’d like to see all organisations and actors involved in the consumption of water driven to achieve water efficiency. This includes plumbers, bathroom and kitchen fitters, device designers, housing developers but also the retailers involved in the sale of water products like hot tubs, gardening organisations, health bodies, personal care product manufacturers. These all have a place in setting expectations, creating standards and are often trusted knowledge holders in communities who some would say are better placed to drive water efficiency. Water efficiency labelling will be a fantastic start for this and should hopefully be a catalyst to think through how we can increase the shared responsibility for water efficiency and provide stakeholders with the tools to drive change.

As a social science practitioner, I see water consumption as something which does not sit in isolation. It’s often bound up with other resource consumption, including energy. This use of water and wider resources are a by-product of peoples wider everyday life and practices, often something so invisible and routine, it isn’t a conscious thought in people’s lives. Therefore, by 2030 I’d like to see connected approaches to not just water efficiency, but resource use and the push to help people lead more sustainable lives.

Climate change, resource depletion, pollution, drought etc. are complex issues for practitioners and communities alike. Greater connections across industries could allow for smarter approaches to water efficiency, where we target multiple issues via certain strategies. For example, a whole building approach to retrofit which joins up energy, water use, waste saving – helping the UK achieve wider goals of Net Zero, our sustainable development commitments, energy, and water security.

Finally, as someone who’s grown up with the climate crisis at the forefront of their life, I see first-hand the real anxiety shared across my generation of what climate emergency we might face, access to sufficient, safe, and regular water being a big part of this.

Therefore, my big hope as a practitioner and a Gen Z is that water efficiency is reframed to something we embed across and throughout our lives. I want it to become a positive and resilient choice we make to keep water in our rivers and ensure the taps keep going for generations to come. I believe this [UK Water Efficiency] strategy will provide the foundations to creating this future. Thank you.

Joe Cahill, 2022