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Reducing household water consumption

Reducing customer bills and water consumption at scale by retro-fitting water saving devices in homes throughout the town of Stanley.

Water-saving devices in Stanley
Water-saving devices in Stanley

Project details

Location: Parish Town of Stanley
Value: The properties of the local population
Date of completion: 21/12/2017
Duration: 6 Months
Client: The local population of Stanley
Contractor: Northumbrian Water Group
Project manager: Tim Wagstaff
Challenge summary: Due to the growing number of the UK population and the demand placed upon the UK water industry, there is a real drive in the sector to help the public reduce their consumption in an effort to reduce their household bill, and reduce the strain on the water network.
Challenge solution: The project managed to reduce the amount of water used in the town by 22.4 Mega Litres per annum, resulting in a saving of on average £27.94 per household per annum.

A precious resource

Water being a precious resource has resulted in Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL) having to come up with a variety of options to try and reduce the amount of consumption and wastage in the water network.

Although there are alternative ways to produce water, and better manage network leakage, ultimately the largest amount of water lost from the network is via customers actually using the product. The average daily consumption is around 147 litres a day per person, so reducing this amount consistently across all customers by even a small figure will save millions of litres across the whole network.

NWL looked into ways to help their customers reduce the annual water consumption. The solution was to work with customers and install sustainable water saving solutions in their own homes, provided by NWL.

Planning the project

The project started with a wide reaching public liaison campaign to all the local residents, this consisted of sending various leaflets and brochures to show the types of devices NWL would install in their properties, explaining the benefits of each device to the householder. This was followed up by telephone conversations to arrange for an NWL representative from the water efficiency team to visit the property to carry out an initial survey, detailing the types of devices to install and the technique in which it would be done. Once this had been carried out a follow up appointment was made for a plumber either in house or one of NWL’s authorised contractors to carry out the work.

The selected devices were tried and tested products that have been on the market for several years, to make sure reliability would not be an issue for either the business, or the customers. The devices installed ranged from simple devices ranging from sink plugs and shower timers, up to the installation of reduced flushing toilet cisterns, and lower flow volume tap inserts.

However, the main challenge of the project - to insure its effectiveness – required being able to gain entry into as many properties as possible, because only a volume impact would yield the best results. NWL were pleased to discover that very few people declined the offer, because a combination of:

  • Active engagement in the local community
  • Clearly explaining the positive impacts of the devices on both the environment and customers’ household water bills
  • Displaying the project as a free offer to the public

Through active engagement in the local community, and showing how these free products can have a positive impact on the environment. The uptake was impressive with many people caring about the plant and also ways to save on their household bills.

The total number of initial properties visited was 2033 with 143 additional visits carried out subsequently. Carrying out meter readings pre and post installation enabled the total amount of water saved to be verified and compared with previous readings from other years.

A project of this type, on this scale, can only be achieved with efficient programming and organisation. Looking forward the team has managed to identify a number of streamlining possibilities. The first of these is carrying out the survey and installation all in one visit using a senior plumber, provided that the customer has appropriate time to wait for the work to be completed. In addition, the portfolio of products is constantly looked at to make sure that the items fitted to each customer’s property are the most appropriate, ensuring the best outcome is achieved. With new products coming onto the market each week, it is vital to make sure that not only stocks of existing items are maintained, but that the team keeps a look out for suitable alternatives.

The team has also looked into areas which should be targeted next. Learning from Stanley has given NWL a good idea of what devices a typical customer could benefit from and who would best be suited for these benefits. This enables the team to match devices to customers far better. Understanding the cost implications for customers, and also how much water can be saved, has also allowed the team to better target future areas for this at-scale approach, and provide better up-front information to customers.

Conclusions

The project has yielded a massive success story for working collaboratively with the local population, gaining a strong valued reputation within the local community. NWL have achieved this by providing:

  • Fantastic customer service
  • A great way for our customers to reduce their bills,
  • Helping customers save their own water towards the national effort of reducing water consumption.

The project has demonstrated that customers are keen to work with the company and that active engagement works well. This project has proved that by tackling the issue of saving water directly with the public, and gaining their input and enthusiasm to work with NWL can make a real difference in the amount of water that is used on a daily basis.

Consequently, this project has since spawned several similar capital schemes. Targeting local areas in both the Northern and Southern operating regions of the company, with two towns per region being targeted per annum, as a rolling programme or works.

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