Reviewing public sector water bills could save millions of pounds

Posted: Monday 8th November 2010

Public sector spending is a hot topic right now and cost effective solutions are being sought across the country to save money for the long term future of these businesses.

Utility bills are one aspect of spending in where there is huge potential to save money and even reclaim any over charges up to the past six years. During the last year alone, H2O have secured refunds of £1.5m for public and private sector companies, simply by auditing the previous billing history.

Placing a spotlight on the NHS, water is considered and managed as a precious resource. The design of all new health care facilities will include the most efficient technology and recording water use will provide an important part of each organisations own sustainability reporting.

In 2007 – 2008 the NHS in England consumed an estimated 38.8 million cubic metres of water and generated approximately 26.3 million cubic metres of sewerage at a cost of approximately £145 million. Poor management of water costs uses money that could have directly benefited patients and the management, distribution and disposal of water contributes to the carbon footprint of the NHS.

Using water generates carbon mainly through heating for hot water but also through the energy required to pump water to get it to our taps. NHS organisations should refer to the Department of Health guidance in HTM 07-04 ‘Water management and water efficiency’ in managing water within the exiting operational estate or commissioning new build or refurbishments of sites.

There are four main aspects of water use that NHS organisations should address:

1. Measuring, monitoring and reporting on water consumption

2. Improving efficiency of use

2. Reducing leakages

3. Avoiding the use of bottled water

Low carbon building developments must utilise water efficiently in the design stage, well before a building is constructed. Potential water use needs to be considered as part of improved building energy use and measured effectively, like all resources it should be valued and used wisely. Water is a contributor to the carbon footprint of the NHS and currently is not metered or measured consistently.

Hot water production is carbon intensive and the DH Estates and Facilities Division along with DEFRA are in the process of developing water efficiency measured for the NHS to include specific studies to investigate how hot water use can be reduced without compromising the standard of health care delivered.

Leakages always need urgent attention as they can often remain undetected for long periods wasting huge volumes of water and therefore money, across the country over 10% of all water is lost through leakages once it has left the water suppliers infrastructure.

Public Sector Case Studies

Manchester metropolitan University, 2008

H2O Building Services carried out a full internal survey and found waste water leaking from toilets and showers. By installing water saving devices in showers, taps and toilets to reduce the surface water and highways drainage charges water, the University was refunded £500,000 and now saves over £100k per year.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council, 2009

In 2009, H2O staff conducted a water audit on all water meters and bills. A meter that hadn't moved for many years was discovered in a public park, to which the council were still getting charged estimated bills for. H2O secured a £170,000 refund from the utilities company on behalf of the council for just one of their sites.

British Rail Board, 2010

A mothball site in Hammersmith was audited and found to be paying £45,000 a year even with no one using the site. A survey was carried out, leaks were detected in faulty fittings. A £23,700 refund from their leakage allowance was achieved, giving the business an annual saving of £5,000 a year.

Health and Safety Executive, North West

H2O carried out an audit of charges to the commercial office in the north west. United Utilities were found to have been overcharging on surface and highways drainage, by £36,000 a year. H2O Sourced a refund of £220,000.

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