Gareth Jones, Sustainability Manager


Universities: How to save money on your water bills

If you spend your working days analysing water usage and other facilities at a university estate, then you’re in the right place! In this blog, I’ll be giving you a few strategic tips to help manage the water consumption in your university, and better yet, save money on your water bills.

Universities use water in many ways, from servicing student accommodation through to facilities on campus including toilets, cafes, canteens, swimming pools, landscaping, and cleaning, as well as any use associated with teaching or research. With larger universities accommodating tens of thousands of students each day, it’s easy to see how water use can quickly stack up, resulting in large bills.

By taking a systematic approach to your facilities, there are many ways a university can become more water efficient and reduce bills. Here’s a few examples you may want to include in your water efficiency strategy:

Keep track of how much water you are using

The first step in understanding your water use is to monitor your consumption. We recommend Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) devices, which automatically reads and saves your consumption data to the cloud in near real-time. With AMR data, you can easily identify out-of-hours, excess, continuous flows and other unexpected usage which could be indicative of a potential leak or inefficient water use.

Most AMR systems will automatically alert users of leaks and potential issues allowing them to be fixed, rather than go unnoticed, preventing disruption, damage to property, and financial loss.

AMR is also helpful for companies who monitor environmental performance, as the data can be used to create detailed water use reports and can be used to track the effectiveness of water efficiency initiatives.

With AMR you should see peaks in consumption throughout the day, during the week, and at times outside of holidays. With AMR you can accurately calculate your water consumption per head (or the amount of water used by full time equivalent students or members of staff) which is a key metric used for positioning on the People & Planet University League Table. Typical universities will use around 180 litres of water per student, per day, as a benchmark but it is possible to use less than this if you action some of the recommendations listed below.

Understand how you can use less water

Looking closely at your water use onsite will help to identify leaks, water inefficient behaviour, and other ways you can save water. This is commonly called a water audit. Whilst you can do this yourself, a water audit by a company like Affinity for Business will highlight ways you can save water and include an honest, uncomplicated, assessment of estimated costs, savings, payback times, and practical steps to get you started.

For universities, this might also include recommendations for longer-term projects such as rainwater harvesting, grey water use, wastewater heat recovery and replacement of inefficient bathroom facilities. Utilising rain and grey water also helps boost your score on the university sustainability league table.

Our water efficiency review will provide you with an easy-to-understand report with tailored recommendations on how you can save water including estimated costs, savings and payback times. We can also provide follow-up support for putting measures in place to reduce, and measure, your ongoing water use.

Read more about our water audit services here.

Switch to a new water retailer

Unlike household customers, businesses can choose who supplies their water and wastewater services. Speak to us to get a free, no-obligation, quote to supply your business, and we’ll do what we can to give you the best deal, saving you money on your existing provider. Aside from delivering exceptional customer service, we also offer other free services that can make your life easier, such as our online My Account portal, paperless billing and consolidated bills.

Fix leaks and ensure facilities are in good working order

Did you know a single dripping tap or leaky toilet pan can waste up to 750 litres a day? Which is why it’s so important to ensure all student bathrooms, public washrooms, canteens and other water-using facilities are maintained and that leaks are fixed. On larger campus sites, you can check that pipes are leak free on a regular basis and lag pipes where possible to prevent bursts in colder months.

Install water efficient devices

There are plenty of water-efficient sinks, showers, toilets and baths which save water without negatively impacting the experience of students, staff and visitors. However, if you are not looking to fully replace your sanitary ware, there are some simple things you can do to cut your water use whilst maintaining the happiness of your guests. This includes:

  • Cistern-displacement devices, or ‘hippo bags’, which sit inside your cistern and can save up to 3 litres of water per flush. These are particularly effective for older, single-flush, toilets
  • Washbasin taps only need to dispense 4 litres of water, or less, per minute to be efficient and effective. Aerators can be inserted to froth the water coming from taps meaning that less water is needed
  • Showers can be adjusted to use just 8 litres of water per minute by turning the valve that feeds the shower; adding an aerating shower head; or by fitting an aerator or restrictor between the hose and the shower head
  • If you have urinals with no flush control, they may be flushing water 24/7, including times when they are not being used. If you have 4 urinals each flushing 9l every 20 minutes, this adds up to nearly a million litres of water per year! Installing urinal controls will ensure that they only flush when required can save you a lot of water and money
  • Swimming pools can be back-washed every 2-3 days to save water with the back-washed water used elsewhere – to irrigate any gardens for example. Using reverse osmosis up to 65% of back-wash can be reused in the pool itself.

Engage students and staff on water efficiency and sustainability

Raise awareness of water efficiency and sustainability issues with students and staff on campus to educate them on what they can do to reduce their environmental impact. Stickers and posters are a great way to get messages out, as are dedicated sustainability events and information communicated through your website.

Students should be encouraged to take short, 4-minute, showers rather than baths and to turn off taps when brushing their teeth. Water can also be saved in the kitchen by using a washing up bowl for cleaning dishes (rather than under a running tap) and by only using washing machines and dishwashers when they are full.

If you have an on-site kitchen at your university, then training and behaviour change during food preparation, cooking and cleaning will also have a big impact on your water use. This includes everything from; ensuring running taps are not used to defrost food, through to more water efficient ways of cleaning dishes.

See what other universities have done to save water

We work with a number of estates and facilities managers from universities across the UK and are looking to develop, and share, case studies on water efficiency to benefit other institutions. If you are interested in learning more from Affinity for Business or our university partners on how you can save water at your university, please contact me by filling out the short form below:

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