Water UK

By Charlotte Owen-Burge | June 30, 2021

Net zero water

As a sector that is rooted in the environment, the water industry is committed to playing its part in tackling the threat of climate change and limiting the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C.

In 2019, water companies in England joined forces to make a pledge to reach net zero on operational emissions by 2030. Since then, companies in Scotland and Wales have committed to achieving carbon neutrality across all emissions by 2040 with a pledge from Northern Ireland to deliver the same target by 2050.

The climate emergency presents an extreme challenge to water and sewage treatment in the UK with a significant increase of drought risk predicted between now and 2050. These droughts are increasing in frequency, severity, and duration due to the climate emergency and population growth.

Without action, the risk of not having enough water to satisfy our customers’ demand is very real.

Water companies across the UK are adapting to this challenge in a number of ways, from building the resilience of our supplies by cutting losses through leaks, to the development of bold projects to move water around the country. We’re also preparing for more floods with new investment plans that set climate-ready standards for drainage.

The UK water industry is responsible for the delivery of 15 billion litres of water and the treatment of sewage from over 28 million properties every day. We do this through a significant network of interconnected assets, including over 7,000 treatment sites and enough buried pipework to reach to the moon and back.

Moving and treating water is an energy intensive process, which leads to the emission of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. Our emissions as a sector can broadly be split into operational and capital, also known as embedded, emissions.

The journey to Net Zero Water

The sector’s journey to net zero carbon will be a complex one, bringing together a variety of technologies, initiatives and behaviours to drive down emissions. Each water company will have its own detailed plan, reflecting specific operational requirements and localised factors such as electricity grid constraints. Individual company plans will also set out in more detail how net zero will be delivered in harmony with the plans of key regional stakeholders including electricity distribution network operators, local authorities, and environmental NGOs.

Water companies are committed to protecting customer bills by taking a ‘least cost’ approach to decarbonisation that maximises opportunities to generate new income or improve efficiency.

For more information, please visit: www.water.org.uk