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10 March 22

Full Stream Ahead for Affinity Water

  • Over 185,000 households sign-up to help save the UK’s endangered chalk streams
  • One billion litres of water saved across July and August 2021 alone
  • Ambitious plans for phase 2 of SOS currently underway

‘Brave and bold’ water-saving movement ‘SOS: Save Our Streams’ is celebrating extraordinary success as it is coined the UK’s biggest ever water-saving initiative to date. One billion litres of water are proven to have been saved last summer thanks to Affinity Water’s pioneering approach.

Fresh reports show that a huge surge in customer engagement has translated into unparalleled water reductions for the UK’s biggest water-only supplier. Empowering people to help protect England’s precious chalk streams by wasting less water in their homes, ‘SOS’ officially launched in April 2021, with an ambitious target of saving 21 million litres per day; the equivalent of 140 million cups of tea every day as part of the overall Demand Management programme.

Through the use of a fully audited AI model created initially to plan for COVID-19 related impact on demand, Affinity Water has been able to pinpoint the exact level of savings that have been made as a direct result of ‘SOS’ activity.

Ed Barnes, Interim Head of Demand Management at Affinity Water, said; “We have been ambitious from the outset with ‘SOS’. We pushed boundaries to find out what is possible and have not been constrained by the industry’s expectation of what can and cannot be done. Our remit to ‘be brave and bold’ has steered us throughout the campaign.

“Results from recent reporting shows that a remarkable one billion litres of water were saved across July and August 2021, which is the equivalent to one maximum peak day’s demand in those two months alone and true testament to the team that devised and delivered the campaign.”

With 3.6 million people relying on Affinity Water’s supply, and statistics that showed its customers were using 9% more water per person per day than the national average, the company faced a huge behaviour change challenge. Humour was used to ensure ‘SOS’ cut through the many environmental messages competing for consumer attention. The campaign, which Affinity Water delivered as part of a multi-agency collective, held a mirror up to the extravagant ways the British public waste water; from press ads of people surreally bathing in streams to radio ads with ducks making doorstep pleas.

Comparable stats in August 2021 and August 2020 show that an impressive 20.25 million litres of water a day were saved exclusively through campaign activity. Affinity Water attributes much of the success of ‘SOS’ to clever, creative and highly targeted communications which featured the world’s first ever comedy gig performed live in a stream and headlined by one of the UK’s best-loved comedians, Sandi Toksvig. Visiting eight town centres in its supply area, Affinity Water also translated the campaign into a big, bold high-impact physical activation involving ‘Tubitha’ the touring bathtub, which was 125 times the size of a normal bath and drew the attention of over 390,000 visitors.

Gillian Watt, Project Lead for ‘SOS’ said; “We embarked on ‘SOS’ knowing that previous national campaigns in our industry had only ever targeted approximately one-tenth of the numbers we were aiming for. Our most recent statistics are all the more impressive when you consider that the majority of activity took place under the shadow of COVID-19, with the team having to constantly weave in and out of changing regulations.

“We know that nearly 75 per cent of people that came across the campaign said it has caused them to take some form of action to cut their water-wasting habits. Alongside the huge effort shown by our customers, it has been important for Affinity Water to show joint responsibility through our continuing commitment to river restoration projects, turning off abstraction from the River Chess and articulating corporate ambition around ending unsustainable abstraction.”

In addition to Affinity Water’s 12.5% Per Capita Consumption target, COVID-19 behavioural change has pushed consumption up by around 9%. These statistics sit alongside emerging regional water resource plans published in January, which suggest that nationally, the sector is targeting closing half of a 4 billion litres a day supply shortfall by 2050 using demand reduction measures.

Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive of the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: "We are delighted that the SOS: Save Our Streams campaign has made such a significant difference to winning hearts and minds and motivating so many people to cut down on extravagant water use. The Chilterns’ chalk streams are rare and special habitats that people really care about.

“It’s heartening to know that, once people are aware of the impact of overuse of water, they are willing to use less. Affinity Water is showing the huge difference a water company can make through taking positive action and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership to tackle these important issues.”

Affinity Water is already planning 33 projects this year and carving out activity for phase two of ‘SOS’, due to launch this summer. Among the other projects for 2022 will be a new steering group for children, combined with the launch of a new Minecraft platform where young gamers can explore the water cycle and saving water in the home as they create their online worlds, boosting interest in STEM subjects along the way.

Members of the public are urged to continue taking action and visit where after answering a few questions about how they use water, can gain access to their exact household water usage stats, a free water-saving kit and tailored advice.

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