The Water Label can boost efficiency and help the environment says Yvonne Orgill, chief executive officer of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association
Water efficiency is increasingly important to those responsible for designing and specifying bathrooms and bathroom products for buildings. It seems that every month there is another report about how the planet is running out of water. Most recently, Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, warned that England is set to run short of water within 25 years. He said the country is facing the “jaws of death”, at the point where demand from the country’s rising population surpasses the falling supply resulting from climate change.
While we may not run out of water, we will almost certainly be facing a severe shortage if we do not manage this scarce resource more efficiently. For the sake of our future generations, we have to take care of what we have got. The old adage “waste not, want not” is now more important than it has ever been and we – all players in the property, bathroom and kitchen industry – have a responsibility to heed its premise and act sustainably.
How much water we use in the home is becoming a burning issue. The bathroom is increasingly under the spotlight, as 22% of overall water used in a household are attributed to toilets and 25% to showers. A study by the Energy Saving Trust estimated that we use 840 billion litres of water each year for showers and flush more than 740 litres down the loo, which would be enough to fill 300,000 Olympic swimming pools.
There is a further environmental benefit from using less water, as typically 25% of a heating bill will be associated with heating water. If less energy is used, bills are also less, reducing the running costs of buildings.
The BMA has an important role to play in educating and influencing and is a prime mover in promoting a single European-wide label for water-using bathroom products. The aim is to support governments in the quest to reduce water consumption by producing innovative, technologically advanced products that deliver the bathing experience consumers enjoy while using less water to save energy and money.
The independent and entirely voluntary Unified Water Label (UWL) was developed by manufacturers in the UK bathroom industry. It is now firmly established across Europe and beyond under the guidance of the European Bathroom Forum.
The UWL provides a clear and simple system to identify water-saving products. The label further includes information on the water flow, flush or volume, which enables both designers and clients to make a more informed choice for a project. Choosing products from this database, when installed and used correctly, will deliver environmental and cost-saving benefits. While this is a voluntary scheme, there are currently 13,200 products and 155 brands already using it.
The BMA is raising awareness so every person involved in the supply chain – be it the architect, builder, installer or final customer – knows to look for the label.
The BMA is also conducting a campaign to promote this message and raise awareness that was launched on Friday 22 March, which was World Water Day.
A series of radio interviews on regional news stations across the UK reached around 27 million listeners. They were directed to the BMA website and a number of videos designed to help consumers understand what the UWL means. The new videos can be found on the BMA website
There is also a dedicated UWL website, which includes helpful information for professionals alongside a database of products. It allows you to search for registered products via the category, efficiency rating or company.
The website also includes a water calculator. This provides a working example of the calculator used for Part G of the Building Regulations and the Code for Sustainable Homes. The water calculator uses the method set out in the Water Efficiency Calculator for New Dwellings and contains information on water consumption for hundreds of products, enabling quick and easy specification without the hassle of gathering data from several different product manufacturers.
The success of the UWL is now in the hands of the industry. Architects and designers can show their support by seeking out products that are registered and have the UWL. The label will be displayed on product literature, installation guides and on manufacturer’s websites.