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Waterwise Manifesto (2009 – 2010)

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Waterwise is the UK NGO focused on decreasing water consumption in the UK by 2010 and building the evidence base for large scale water efficiency. Waterwise is the leading authority on water efficiency in the UK. Between 2005 and 2008 Waterwise sat on the UK Environment Minister’s Water Saving Group in England,alongside the water industry and its regulators. Waterwise set up the Saving Water in Scotland Network. For more information on Waterwise visit

The issues

Lack of water

The UK has less available water per person than most other European countries. London is drier than Istanbul, and the South East of England has less water available per person than the Sudan and Syria. Water is also scarce in parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and both floods and droughts in the last few years have led to water supply shortages to homes across the UK. More extreme weather events, including wetter winters and drier summers, are predicted. This means less water will be available for us all to use (and there will be increased pressure on the natural environment).

Growing demand

Despite this, the underlying trend is that we are all using more and more water – around 150 litres a day, each, with a third of that water being flushed down the toilet. The trend towards smaller household sizes means higher use per person. And much-needed new homes are placing more demands on water resources as they are built in the very areas where water is already scarce.

Water and energy

To make matters worse, the water we use has a significant carbon footprint, which is adding to climate change. The use of hot water in our homes for bathing, cooking and cleaning accounts for a quarter of our fuel bills, and more than 5% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. And water company treating, pumping and other processes make up almost 1% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the energy used to pump, treat and heat the water in the average family’s home produces the carbon equivalent of a return flight from London to New York.


In this manifesto Waterwise sets out the actions the government should take during the next Parliament to ensure that our homes, buildings and businesses are wasting less water, and that we are fit to face the challenges of climate change. Water efficiency is an essential weapon in the fight against climate change – significantly reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings as well as the UK water industry. But it is also a crucial tool as weadapt to climate change’s impacts: homes and businesses of the future will need to be water efficient – to make less water go further.

The UK is now required by law to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050 (and committed to 5-year carbon budgets). To meet this target, a future government will need to place water efficiency at the centre of its policies and actions, alongside energy efficiency. And our homes and buildings – as well as our behaviour –will need to be water efficient to cope with future water stress.