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Regular water checks at sites in winter – and at other times – helps reduce risks to keep operating

Looking closer at water use at a site during the year can have a range of benefits for organisations – large and small.

Research shows nearly half of public sector employees cut their water use at home because they are concerned about their impact on the environment and a quarter believe their employers could do more to encourage a reduction in water use at work*. It shows there is a willingness amongst employees to help the public sector reduce water loss and help the environment.

Being more aware of water that’s used helps organisations reduce water waste and risks to supply interruptions on site water pipes.

Cutting out any water waste also helps reduce impacts on the environment – along with reducing the carbon emissions linked to water, which is under Scope 3. If less water needs to be moved around by pumps at a site, or if less is used overall, for example, across a hospital or council owned buildings, then there’s an energy saving there too.

Water Plus, the largest water retailer in the UK and a winner of two National Sustainability Awards, is highlighting water efficiency and water pipe winter messages, to help organisations of all sizes – under their #BeWiseOnWater awareness campaign, including on its online Help area here – and on its social media channels.

Here are some tips, to Be Wiser on Water – for sustainability teams – and public sector employees:

Pipes can feel the cold – just like you

Cold weather and changing temperatures can make a burst pipe more likely at sites. It can cause ground movements that can affect underground pipes at sites – and even a small trickle or drips on a tap at a business can cause a pipe to freeze.

You’re responsible for the pipework within the property boundary, from the point of the water meter, or from the point of an external stop tap if you don’t have a water meter. So, it’s a good idea to take steps to reduce risks to your organisation – and know how to manage any problems.

Use a lot of water or have more than one meter? Data loggers that can be placed on water meters and feed information on water use into an online portal help you spot saving opportunities too – and highlight additional areas needing attention. This data can also be used to see what seasonal trends there may be for your site – whether the weather is hot – or during the colder months when pipes and the ground can be affected by changes in temperatures.

Noting down meter readings regularly, if the meter is safe to access, and providing these online, is also worth doing to track use and spot any unexpected changes.

So, whether it’s for Estates Returns information for councils, hospitals and PCTs, or to help track reductions in water use in general, there are a few straightforward steps to keep in mind.

Insulate exposed pipework

Pipe lagging is inexpensive to buy and can help prevent water inside a pipe freezing when the temperature drops. It’s also a good idea to insulate tanks and cisterns, too.

Leave heating on a low setting

It might be tempting to turn off the heating while you’re not on site – but the money this saves can easily be lost again if a pipe freezes or bursts. Bursts are often more to do with how quickly the temperature changes, not necessarily how low the thermometer plummets. So, it’s a better idea to leave your heating on, at a low setting, to reduce harsh temperature changes.

Check in on your site, if it’s left empty

If your buildings are closed during certain times of the year, including during the winter months and Bank Holidays, be sure to check in regularly and make sure no leaks, bursts or floods have happened since you’ve been away. If you do discover a problem, you can turn the stop tap off to prevent further water loss. More tips around leak checks at sites can be found here.

Keep an eye on the weather

It’s worth looking out for rain and flood warnings, as these can cause extra surface water and icy patches.

Have a plan in place

Having a water action plan, so you and staff on-site know what to do in a water emergency, is essential to save time and money if the worst should happen.

Do you have clear channels staff can report water issues quickly and easily – to prevent any issues affecting a building, or its water supplies?

Take the time to:

* Understand your water system and monitor use throughout a year. A survey found 92% of people, from public sector and private sector organisations, said they wouldn’t know if there was an underground leak at their organisation.**

* Know where the stop taps are, and make sure staff and facility managers can find them – and turn them off, when needed. It’s worth checking during a year – as part of maintenance routines – the stops taps are in working order and haven’t seized up.

* Check what your insurance covers – know who has financial responsibility.

* Know who to call in the event of an emergency – have numbers ready, so you can respond to leaks or water emergencies quickly and effectively.

* Consider a plan for emergency water delivery to your site, in case of a supply interruption.

Customers with Water Plus can submit meter readings quickly – at any time – online. For customers registered for the MyAccount portal, see your emails for a link to do this, or go to the Water Plus website homepage here – and scroll down to select “Submit a meter reading”.

To request data loggers, or additional water efficiency services, contact the Water Plus team at: and include “PSSA” in the email subject heading.

Additional note:

* The survey found 62% of people working in the public sector in England and Scotland have cut their domestic water use in the 12 months running up to being questioned. 47% of public sector workers said they’d cut water use at home to reduce their environmental impact. It also found one in four (25%) public sector workers say they are encouraged to reduce how much water they use at work. 500 people working in the public sector (250 from Scotland and 250 from England) and 500 people working in businesses (250 from Scotland and 250 from England) were surveyed. The research was conducted by independent survey consultant Censuswide in May 2019 and the survey was commissioned by Water Plus.

** Online survey during presentation, in January 2022. 26 responses on survey question.

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