The sustainability series: climate change, the bathroom industry and the Unified Water Label
Yvonne Orgill, MD at Unified Water Label, on how the bathroom sector is responding to the climate change challenge and explains how the Unified Water Label could help
With much of the country reeling from the impact of severe flooding over the last few weeks, it may seem inappropriate to highlight that there is a real danger that the planet is running out of water.
Whilst it is distressing for those involved, we must remember that flooding does not necessarily relate to the fact that we have too much water, but has more to do with how we manage the water we do have in our rivers and water systems.
We will almost certainly face a severe water shortage if we do not manage the scare resource of water more efficiently
The statistics are clear and there is no doubt that we will almost certainly be facing a severe water shortage if we do not manage the scare resource of water more efficiently. The old saying, “waste not, want not” is now more important than it has ever been and we, all players in the property, bathroom and kitchen industry, have a responsibility to heed its premise and act sustainably.
A large proportion of all the water used in the home is consumed in the bathroom. A study by the Energy Saving Trust estimated that we use 840 billion litres of water each year for showers and flush more than 740 litres down the loo, equating to enough water to fill 300,000 Olympic swimming pools.
Reducing the amount of water we use can have environmental benefits in terms of reducing the carbon emissions from treating water and protecting the wildlife environments around our rivers. There is a further environmental benefit from using less water, as typically 25% of a heating bill will be associated with heating water, if less energy is used, bills are also less, reducing the running costs of buildings.
Recent research carried out by Citizens Advice and the Energy Saving Trust found that replacing an inefficient showerhead with a water-efficient one could save a four person household (e.g. a family of four or even a shared student flat) as much as £70 a year on gas for water heating, as well as a further £115 a year on water bills if they have a water meter.
For those households that take hot water straight from a boiler or hot water tank (rather than an electric shower), the fitting of a water efficient shower head will reduce hot water usage while retaining the sensation of a powerful shower.
What is the Unified Water Label and how does it relate to climate change?
The Unified Water Label, (UWL) supports the industry in its quest to reduce water consumption by producing innovative and technologically advanced bathroom products that deliver the bathing experience consumers enjoy, but use less water, save energy and save money.
The independent and entirely voluntary UWL was developed by manufacturers in the UK bathroom industry. It is now firmly established across Europe and beyond under the guidance of the European Bathroom Forum.
The UWL provides a clear and simple system to identify water saving products. The label also includes information on the water flow, flush or volume, enabling a more informed choice to be made. Choosing products from this database, which are then installed and used correctly, will deliver environmental and cost-saving benefits. Whilst it is a voluntary scheme there are currently 13,200 products and 157 brands already using it.
The UWL is raising awareness so that everyone in the supply chain, be it architect, builder, installer or customer knows to look for the label. It can be found on many bathroom products including taps, showers and WC’s.
Education and choice are vital if the label is to be a success. Because the label is voluntary, there are no government restrictions on what is deemed to be a ‘water saving’ product, which allows manufacturers the freedom to provide a range of products. If a mandatory label is introduced instead of the UWL, this will bring restrictions, limiting the range of products and making it harder to provide the products that still deliver performance as well as energy efficiency.
There is a dedicated UWL website www.europeanwaterlabel.eu that includes helpful information for professionals and a database of products. Professionals can search for registered products via the category, efficiency rating or company.
The success of the UWL is now in the hands of the industry and architects and designers can show their support by seeking out products that are registered and have the UWL. The label will be displayed on product literature, installation guides and on manufacturer’s websites.