Open letter to UK Chancellor on housing and water efficiencies

A group of almost 20 cross-party politicians from both Westminster chambers are behind the document.

a street sign on the side of a building

Led by Conservative backbencher Henry Smith, the group have put forward proposals to encourage widespread adoption of water efficiency technologies in residential construction.

The signatories believe this will increase headroom for the creation of new homes, while reducing concerns about impact on water scarcity and security. Submitted in the wake of a failed attempt to end so-called ‘nutrient neutrality’ responsibility for developers, it is believed the tabled solutions will also address this issue. 

Tim Farron – Chair of the House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee, Chair of the Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency All-Party Parliamentary Group and former Leader of the Liberal Democrats – was responsible for writing the letter. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has now been asked to ‘carefully consider’ its content, and develop policy taking into account the fact 40% of energy used by an average British household goes on heating water. 

Not only can efficiency technologies help reduce consumption, including waste, overall domestic bills could fall by almost £400 per year. Many devices cost just £170 to install, meaning savings would begin in a matter of months. Rather than restricting flow, the most recent technologies focus on more effective management by minimising fluctuations in pressure. As such, users have frequently reported forgetting about their presence once fitted.

Currently, around 120,000 new homes are caught up in ‘development limbo’ due to worries about water stress and elevated nitrate levels in water catchment areas. Concerns over nutrients had led to an attempt at removing existing laws tied to this, carried over from the UK’s membership of the European Union, through amendments to the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill. However, this motion was defeated in the House of Lords on Wednesday 13th September. 

Read a full copy of the letter below: 

In line with HM Government’s commitment to improving the energy and water efficiency of homes, we, the undersigned, are writing to request that the Government carefully considers the advantages of readily available water efficiency technologies.

Current policy excludes these technologies from the suite of Government backed deployable measures. Yet, these low-cost solutions can reduce household carbon emissions and energy bills, as well as address nitrate and water stress concerns, thereby creating additional capacity for new build homes.

During a time of deep uncertainty surrounding the cost of everyday energy usage, we must consider the role of new and emerging technologies in helping households reduce their energy bills. Rather than focusing solely on a supply-side approach, it is prudent to tackle demand.

Currently, water control products are not supported in the Government’s flagship fuel poverty scheme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) as the legislation only allows technologies that reduce the heating costs of properties.

This completely misses the fact that up to 40% of energy used in a home is used to heat water. Conversely, these products are already recognised as a successful tool by Government – evidenced by their inclusion in the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Under the latest iteration of ECO (ECO4) additional measures, such as water-saving products, can be retrospectively added to the scheme via secondary legislation, illustrating that this is a quick fix which has the potential to reduce household energy bills on a mass scale. We therefore call on Government to deliver a joined-up approach that addresses the full energy consumption and thereby reduces costs.

To provide an example, a recent study into water efficiency technologies by the University of Liverpool examined a pilot commissioned by Crawley Borough Council, which showed that one iteration currently available for mass deployment, a patented device named Control Flow, reduced domestic water wastage by up to 23%.

The study also illustrated that over a 12 week period, a projected average annual saving in energy bills of £287 and water of £93 was achieved. These are considerable savings and must be acknowledged in the Government’s bid to make our homes more energy efficient.

Whilst these technologies have initially been trialled to lower household energy bills, it has also been proven that water efficiency technologies have the capability to increase the number of new build homes built by developers by addressing water scarcity concerns at development sites.

You will of course be aware that in certain local authorities in England, housing developments have been suspended or stopped altogether due to concerns surrounding nitrate and phosphorous levels. In fact, some 120,000 new build homes are currently stuck in the development process due to concerns about water stress and nitrate concentrations in the local water catchment area.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate has recently highlighted that household mains water contains 50mg of nitrates per litre. Therefore, each litre of water saved with Control Flow results in a saving of 50 nitrates. By extensively implementing water efficiency technologies in housing development sites across England, we can not only resume paused developments but also mitigate the environmental impact of nitrates reintroduced into rivers and streams through wastewater processes.

It is evident that the widespread adoption of water efficiency technologies would significantly contribute to the Government’s targets, surpassing the potential impact of proposed mandatory water labelling, for instance. Natural England has also certified that technologies like Control Flow save 27 litres of water per person, per day in an average home.

These cost-effective and readily implementable technologies offer numerous benefits to the Government. We eagerly anticipate your response and sincerely hope that you will consider meeting with us to discuss this matter further.
These technologies are cost-effective, can be implemented quickly and easily and have a myriad of beneficial outcomes for the Government. We very much look forward to hearing from you and hope you will consider meeting with us to discuss this issue further.

More on water and housing: 

Scrapping EU-era nutrient neutrality ‘will boost England housing stock’

Wasteful heating, ventilation and air con must be CO2 reduction priority

Here’s looking at you, Qatar: Water management in a desert state

Leeds City Council decarbonisation scheme celebrated for cutting fuel poverty

Image: Nick Kane


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