Kevin Wellman: ‘Consumer labelling plays a pivotal role in reducing water wastage’

Kevin Wellman, CIPHE CEO, believes that consumer labelling and the UWL has a pivotal role to play in influencing behaviour change

Kevin Wellman, CIPHE

There is no doubt that we are facing a global water challenge. According to the UN, billions of people are still living without safe water. Their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive; in particular, marginalised groups, women, children, refugees, indigenous people, disabled people are overlooked or face discrimination. Water scarcity will remain a global problem because of climate change delivering less rain and a significant growth in the population, leading to a greater demand for water.

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Covid-19 has raised further awareness of health and hygiene related to hand washing, bringing attention to the global water shortage and making the ‘Use water wisely, save water safely’ message even more important.

Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has brought some positive changes for climate change, the combination of people spending all their time at home and the very dry weather has created a water shortage, with water companies in some areas reporting that people are using 20-40% more water whilst staying at home.

We all have a responsibility to use water wisely and safely to protect our environment and wellbeing, so this is a message that, as an association, we are happy to support.

What is important is that the message is clearly focused on water efficiency and the reduction of water wastage, rather than just using less water. Reducing water wastage by measuring the amount of water required for a particular purpose and the amount of water used or delivered is different from water conservation as it focuses on reducing waste and not restricting use.

In the home it is the consumer that controls the amount of water used, the industry can provide water efficient products but unless we educate the user on how to use them responsibly, we will not reduce water wastage. Likewise, providing the consumer with a product that limits the amount of water and reduces the efficiency and enjoyment of the experience will also have a negative impact.

Labelling water-using products is a growing practice across the globe, with many initiatives being implemented. Consumer labelling has a pivotal role to play in influencing behaviour change, a fact that is already evident. A label that provides the consumer with information about how much water and energy the product uses, gives them the opportunity to make informed choices, especially when combined with education about the impact of using water wisely in the home.

The industry should and can take this opportunity to lead the drive towards a more sustainable future by supporting and promoting the UWL. Competent installers, manufacturers, retailers and merchants understand the complexities of a water and plumbing system, and how the constituent parts work together in the home.

CIPHE members are well placed to guide consumer choices at the point of purchase, and we welcome a sustained campaign that will influence consumer attitudes towards water conservation and increase knowledge of schemes such as the Unified Water Label.

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Labelling not only provides the consumer with sufficient information to make an informed choice at point of sale, it also provides those that manufacture and sell products with a competitive tool, which also aids research and development for greater sustainable products.