Southern Water launched the ‘River Itchen challenge’, a targeted 12-month campaign in a group of villages to the east of Winchester, in an attempt to get Communities more involved in saving water.
Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, says that a radical behaviour-change that cuts demand for and usage of water is urgently required, something along the lines of how people were encouraged to take their own bags to the supermarket in an effort to combat all the millions of plastic bags that end up polluting the environment.
The project includes personal home visits to homes in a ‘district metered area’ that comes with bespoke behavioural change advice, the fixing of leaking toilets, fitting of free products, and the careful monitoring of savings.
There are also visits to small businesses and a partnership with the local primary school. Added to this, incentives of between £15,000 and £50,000 are offered for water savings of up to 25%, which the Parish Councils choose on what they want to spend.
The River Itchen challenge is one of four ‘abstraction incentive mechanism’ initiatives agreed with Ofwat; it is testing its theory of radical behaviour-change on the more affluent areas, which are historically not the easiest minds to change.
Water usage in North Hampshire is currently around 50 litres per day above the regional average, and Southern Water is making a direct link with the local chalk stream in an effort to show users how cutting demand can help safeguard local wildlife.
This is a brilliant move, as it is way more cost-effective to save water now than try and source more in the future. Linking in the community to help save water means that water efficiency is being utilised in a way that will lead to increased service resilience as well as customer participation.
Ben Earl, Southern Water’s water efficiency manager, says: “Research we commissioned from independent thinktank Green Alliance showed that simple water efficiency measures can save our customers up to £78 each year. We wanted to go further and see if sharing the proceeds with communities would lead to a more dramatic effect.
“This trial will help shape a more ambitious programme as part of the AMP7 business plan. There is increasing recognition that we need to better manage water demand to provide a resilient water supply. A community incentive could provide a significant boost to that goal.”
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