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16 January 23

Affinity Water unveils plans for a Water Neutrality trial in Central Bedfordshire

  • Helping to create a blueprint for water neutrality in the UK
  • Building new homes that are water efficient and encouraging behavioural change
  • Encouraging more resilience to the impact of climate change

The UK’s largest water only company, Affinity Water is collaborating with builders and home buyers to conduct a series of trials that will test how best to reduce water usage in new homes and businesses to protect the environment and secure sustainable water supply for the future.

The Ofwat and Nesta-backed innovation project, called Project Zero (also known as ‘Water Neutrality at NAV sites’) will take place at three locations. Currently efforts are concentrated at the second location, a development called Bidwell in Houghton Regis Town, Central Bedfordshire. It will focus on making new homes water efficient and reducing water use by encouraging behavioural change. The aim is to ensure that the total water use in the community is the same as before the new homes were built.

New properties in the Affinity Water area are expected to use an extra 83.03 million litres a day by 2032 on top of what is already being used. This is at a time when taking additional water from the environment will become more challenging, as climate change also puts pressure on environmental resources. One local school in Houghton Regis has already reduced its water demand.

Keith Haslett, CEO of Affinity Water said the water industry faces significant challenges over the next decade and beyond and the results of the Project Zero trial will be used to create a blueprint for water neutral housing developments, for the industry and policy makers to develop further.

Mr Haslett explained:

“The water neutrality trial in Houghton Regis Town will set trends for the industry through exploration and trials of innovative ways to build new housing developments, whilst minimising pressure on our finite water resources. This project will show us how we should adapt and become more resilient to the impact of climate change by building water efficient housing developments and encouraging behavioural change. By creating a sustainable growth model, we will meet our pledge to achieve net zero operational emissions by 2030.

“The successful Affinity Water Save Our Streams campaign continues to prove that educating our customers, changes their behaviour and reduces water demand at scale, whilst minimising the impact on the precious chalk streams in our region. Initial results from the Project Zero trial in Bedfordshire also look encouraging. All eyes will be on this new water neutrality trial, with results providing a blueprint for reducing water demand in the future. I want to thank Ofwat and Nesta for backing this innovation trial”.

Lina Nieto, Water Neutrality Manager at Affinity Water explained:

“We need to find innovative ways to help us continue protecting the environment, supporting our communities to grow and providing high-quality drinking water. Water Neutrality will help overcome two problems: the first one, is to prevent new homes from becoming a future problem by making them water efficient and thereby reducing the anticipated water consumption; and the second one, reducing water waste in the community where the new homes are situated”.

The project will test how low Affinity Water can get customer usage through technology such as fitting new water saving devices and rainwater harvesting on one site and then see if on another site behaviour change can produce the same or better results. Both options will then be trialled together on a third site, whilst off-setting the usage that remains.

At Bidwell in Houghton Regis Town, Central Bedfordshire the Water Neutrality team will be testing the effectiveness of a behavioural campaign on 1000 houses working with three external partners. The behavioural change experts Grapeviners and IWNL (Independent Water Networks), who operate water and wastewater networks across the UK, and are the Affinity Water NAV partners, and H2OiQ, a manufacturer and supplier of water efficiency products. The trial is working in partnership with Central Bedfordshire Council and the local community.

The goal is to help customers reduce water wastage by modifying certain behaviours and the remaining water use will be offset by reducing water consumption in the local community.

Lina Nieto, continued:

“Thanks to the local community we have so far offset nearly 300 connections from this new development, and we hope to hit half of them in the next three months.

“I am thrilled to be working with IWNL, Grapeviners, Central Bedfordshire Council and H2OiQ, at this site in Houghton Regis Town. All the partners are working around the clock to make water neutrality a reality.

“I also have to thank all the organisations like Chilterns School in taking part and helping us offset the new development’s water demand by reducing their own water consumption by using a range of new water saving devices. We fitted tap restrictors, kitchen water booster taps, delayed fill WC inlet valves, and urinal water managers and it made a significant difference to the school’s water consumption leading to a 30 per cent saving. Now we want others to follow its example.

“Water Neutrality is an environmental approach that will help us protect the environment, support our society to continue growing and mitigate the water scarcity future challenges and help us combat the impact of climate change on our water resources”.

For more information and to view some of our more frequently asked questions, please view our Water Neutrality PDF.

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