• What Does Net Zero Look Like for the Water Industry?

Water/Wastewater

What Does Net Zero Look Like for the Water Industry?

Jul 28 2021

In June 2019, the UK became the world’s first major economy to commit to a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Under 18 months later, the British water industry surpassed that goal by some 20 years, publishing its own route map to net-zero emissions in the sector by 2030. If successful, that ambitious objective could save a whopping 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

While it won’t be easy, achieving net-zero in the water industry by 2030 is certainly within the realms of possibility. Those behind the route map believe it will take an investment of between £2 billion and £4 billion into a variety of new technologies that can enable net-zero emissions, as well as into optimising current processes and employing renewables wherever possible.

A unique industry

In order for the country to comply with the government’s legally binding 2050 target, it will take a concerted effort from companies across all sectors to clean up their environmental profile. However, the challenges facing the water industry are perhaps somewhat unique. As a provider of an essential public service which affects 28 million homes, water companies must put the interests of their customers first and foremost.

With the average Briton consuming 142 litres per day, that’s no mean feat. The monumental infrastructure that it requires encompasses over 7,000 treatment plants and 569,000km of sewage pipelines, which result in 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emitted each year. That’s a 45% decrease on the volume emitted in 2011, demonstrating the progress already made, but there is still much work ahead.

A 10-point plan

In order to make concrete inroads towards achieving their 2030 target, the water industry have put together a 10-point plan, comprised of six commitments and four recommendations. These are:

  • Protecting customers. This prioritises maximum impact for minimum cost, by implementing renewables, investing in efficiency and taking advantage of government schemes and subsidies.
  • Leadership and collaboration. This empowers industry leaders to work with one another to share information and best practices, all the while keeping net-zero as a priority.
  • Urgent action. This will fast-track ‘low regret’ actions which can be taken immediately, as well as instigating research on ‘long lead-in time’ items which will have further reaching repercussions.
  • Progress in every part of England. Each company operating in England will use the route map to devise their own plan of action, which will be published by the end of July 2021.
  • Transparency. The annual publication of a Sector Emissions Report will keep companies honest, while a Net Zero Expert Panel will gain insight from experts working outside the water industry.
  • Green jobs. In support of a green recovery from Covid-19, the water industry will implement training programmes, apprenticeships and other educational initiatives to build relevant skills.
  • Economy-wide strategy. The water industry must work in tandem with other government initiatives to ensure that targets take into account potentially rising demands and other factors for a joined-up approach to the problem.
  • Government policy. This means baking sustainability into forthcoming legislation, such as setting limits on water consumption in new builds and imposing water efficiency labels on white goods.
  • Prioritising innovation. Researching and investing in ‘hard to reduce’ facets of the industry such as process emissions, and bringing solutions to market efficiently and effectively.
  • Nature-based solutions. As well as technological innovations, any comprehensive plan should encompass nature-based solutions to maximise impact.

For those interested in learning more about the technologies which can help your company improve its environmental credentials with regard to the water section, check out our Buyers Guide for a full range of the latest products and innovations.


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