Water regulator Ofwat today announced targets for water companies to increase water efficiency savings by 40% from 2010 – a response to lacklustre performance by some companies on helping their customers use water more wisely.
The regulator is demanding that water companies help customers save at least 23 million litres of water a day (Ml/d), or an average saving of one litre per property per day.
These targets would see water companies increasing activity to help customers save an estimated 40% more water, when compared with the past three years. The water saved would fill more than 3,300 Olympic swimming pools every year. This reduction would come on top of savings from targets on leakage from pipes, and increasing water metering.
Average household consumption per head across England and Wales in 2007/08 was 148 litres a day, but the water usage of households varies significantly across water companies.
Regina Finn, Ofwat Chief Executive, said: "Water is an increasingly valuable resource and we all have a responsibility to conserve it. Successes in Europe show that helping households to use water wisely can save significant amounts of water, reducing the need for expensive new sources.
"Some companies need to do more to help customers cut waste and use water efficiently. This is good customer service and helps customers on meters control their bills.
"Companies will be stretched by these targets, but this is about customers getting a fair deal, and using water sustainably."
When it comes to the amount of water used by households, England and Wales lags significantly behind many of our European neighbours, including Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Germany has benefited from water efficiency drives. Average consumption was reduced by 15 per cent (22 litres) between 1990 – 2005 to 125 litres per person per household per day.
If England and Wales followed Germany's lead and reduced household consumption by 22 litres per person per day, enough water could be saved to supply the needs of the combined population of London, Birmingham and Cardiff.
In the Netherlands household usage was reduced to 124 litres per person per day by 2004 – a reduction of approximately ten per cent over ten years. A key factor in this reduction was an increase in usage of devices such as water saving toilets and shower heads.
Companies must deliver savings by providing household and business customers with information on how to use water sensibly. They must also promote the use of water saving devices. The water efficiency targets exclude savings from supply pipe repairs and replacements.
Ofwat will not allow customers' bills to rise to achieve these targets, which will be introduced on a trial basis from April 2009 and come into full effect in 2010.
The targets will help companies play their part in achieving the Government's long term ambition of reducing individual water usage to 130 litres per person per day from its current level of around 150 litres.