With the threat of industrial action on railways and a post-Brexit plan causing heightened anxiety amongst Brits, ‘a truth universally acknowledged’ that really brings the country to its knees is the weather.
This summer across the UK, temperatures have soared and it has been predicted that thermometers will continue to rocket to an all-time record of 38.5C. Meteorologists are even speculating the warm temperatures will last until October! As a result of such adverse weather conditions, water has become even more of a precious resource as demand for it has risen, igniting fears of water shortages. With some utility companies enforcing a hosepipe ban, the question on everyone’s lips is, will this trigger others to do the same? Alternatively, is it possible for us Brits to simply become more efficient in our daily routines, in order to reduce wastage and avoid a ban?
The severe lack of rainfall over the summer has meant that water companies, such as Affinity Water (serving parts of North West London and the Home Counties), have had to significantly increase production in order to meet demand. Their current average is 1,200 million litres of water per day, compared to their usual supply of 900 million litres. Despite this, reservoir levels of water are still running low and lawns across the UK are parched.
In Northern Ireland, NI Water announced its hosepipe ban in early July after a 30% increase in demand for water. Just last week, United Utilities in north west England decided to cancel its hosepipe ban as the short spell of rainfall and efforts made by customers meant the water supply was replenished. In the south east, Southern Water has been reinforcing the same message and encouraging customers to reduce their water usage to help prevent further action being taken.
What does this mean for the future?
With customers using water faster than it can be treated and put back into circulation, there is no wonder a loss of supply is becoming a feared reality. According to experts, the effects of global warming are only set to worsen and there will be ‘many more heatwaves, some with greater severity than those occurring now, in the decades to come’. This will impact on many different customer segments, including vulnerable customers who may struggle particularly with extreme summer temperatures.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as according to a NI Water spokesperson, ‘a loss of water supply for households is a completely avoidable situation.’ Looking ahead to PR19, Ofwat has made it clear that it expects water companies to aim to provide 'exceptional' service, with resilience at the core. To finalise business plans and ensure customers' needs are being met, companies have made a step change in the quality of their stakeholder engagement, educating and listening to all customer segments, to ensure they focus on the areas that matter.
If small changes in customer behaviour can be affected to reduce water usage such as using water butts or taking showers rather than baths, or as Severn Trent Water has advised, using a water-efficient dishwasher instead of washing up by hand, the impact on the UK’s water supply levels could be significant. But how can customers be encouraged to change ingrained, habitual behaviour to provide a stable supply of water in the future?
Impact Utilities is a full-service market research agency focusing on the UK water and energy sectors. As experts in behaviour change and as a PR19 research partner, we have considerable experience in innovative, effective customer engagement as well as large-sample quantitative surveys in the public sector, all supported in-house by our advanced analytics team (see our PR19 case study and Power Saver challenge report).
If you would like to arrange a call or a meeting at your office to discuss how we could help you, please contact our Head of Utilities Dawn Mulvey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01932 226 793.