Research: How Can Water Resources Better Support Businesses & Communities?

Water efficiency - H2O Building Services


The water crisis is largely inescapable these days, whether you live in sub-Saharan Africa where millions of people still lack access to basic water and sanitation services, or whether you live in Scotland where water scarcity has started becoming national news on an increasingly regular basis.


There is a common misconception that water stress and scarcity will only affect the hotter, drier and more arid countries around the world, but every nation will experience some form of water crisis in the future, driven by water mismanagement, climate change, pollution, urbanisation, population growth and more frequent and extreme weather events like drought and flooding.


And Scotland is certainly not exempt from this, despite the fact that it’s renowned around the world for being particularly wet.


In 2022, a series of water scarcity warnings were issued by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, with water shortages potentially becoming more serious and more frequent as a result of climate change and drier summers seriously affecting water supplies.


Drier summers are certainly predicted to become more frequent as time goes on and it doesn’t take long for drought conditions to take hold, having an effect on rivers, lakes and streams, which will have a knock-on effect for business abstraction licences and how much water can be used to keep operations running productively.


Promoting better outcomes


To help ensure that Scottish society is able to continue to flourish and grow over time, a new research study is now being undertaken by the University of Stirling to see how the nation’s water resources can be used to promote better outcomes for business, communities and the environment.


The £5 million partnership project is set to take three years, working across the Forth River Basin to see what role water has to play in improving public health, promoting business opportunities in sectors like tourism, agriculture, construction and energy, and in linking Scottish cultural and natural heritage.


Lead author of the study professor Richard Simmons from the Faculty of Social Sciences said: “[This study] combines the world-class strengths of Stirling’s social and natural scientists in research that will highlight solutions to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of local communities, whilst also providing a beacon of innovation for similar water systems and communities across the globe.”


“This is very much a multi-disciplinary study, encompassing business, society and the environment, and how our region’s water resources can be optimised for the things that matter most to us all.”


The Forth River Basin


Despite the fact that Scotland sees a lot of rain, climate change is affecting water availability in some parts of the country, with prolonged dry spells in 2022 affecting the east coast in particular, giving rise to drought conditions because of the lack of rainfall.


That year, the rivers Tyne, Esk, Avon, Almond, Leven, Devon, Carron and the Water of Leith all saw extremely low water levels, with significant water scarcity declared for the Tyne, with abstraction licences within the catchment suspended as a result.


During these periods of drought, burns and tributaries higher up in catchment areas can be affected more than river main stems, with generations of fish and insect life potentially wiped out because of this.


Making rivers more resilient to water stress and scarcity will not only help protect socio-economic interests, but it will also help ensure the survival of all sorts of iconic species.


River basin management plans are now in place to protect and improve Scotland’s water environment, focusing on reducing resource use, restoring natural capital and eliminating waste, but all water users have a role to play in protecting the country’s natural resources, so perhaps now is a good time to ask…


What can my business do to improve its water management?


There’s a huge amount that businesses, big and small alike, can do to prioritise water management across their site and reduce their usage and consumption over time.


Adhering to the conditions set out in their abstraction licences is a must, of course, and it can be useful to plan, monitor and record how much water you’re using to ensure that you’re not exceeding the limits imposed.


Be aware that spring and summer are when water demand will be at its highest, so it’s important to make your business more resilient so you’re better able to handle water shortages if and when they occur, minimising disruption and downtime as far as is practical.


By focusing on water management strategies and making your business more water efficient, you’ll be able to drive down costs, safeguard water resources for future generations, improve the green credentials of your organisation and have a positive impact on the environment.


One of the best first steps to take towards establishing a robust water management strategy is to have a water audit carried out across your entire site. This will show you how you’re using water and where, as well as identifying any vulnerable areas ripe for improvement.


The audit involves historical bill reviews, so you can see if you’ve been overcharged in the past, as well as spotting any spikes in usage that might suggest you have a leak somewhere on the premises.


You can also track your water flow to find issues as and when they occur, allowing you to take immediate action to rectify the situation, plug the leak and prevent further wastage.


If you’d like to find out more about how to become more water efficient as a business, get in touch with the H2o Building Services team today to see how we can help.