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Desktop Audit

All businesses will be familiar with the concept of regular audits, as they are required in a multitude of areas to ensure there is less waste, less cost, and a more proactive approach to day-to-day productivity. However, it may not be the first thing on your mind when starting your journey toward being totally water efficient.

Every robust business plan starts with a well thought out strategy, and water efficiency is no exception. By taking the time to have a high-level examination of current policies, procedures, and equipment in the form of a desktop audit. You can identify potential changes, enabling  a methodical approach to seamlessly engraining water efficiency into your culture.

Of course, investing the time and the money in a full review of current procedural documentation, discussing and finalising appropriate actions, and disseminating these to staff is not something to be entered into lightly. However, there are a number of tangible benefits of starting with a high-level review that will make it more than worth the effort required.

It will allow you to take stock

For most businesses, policy and procedure documents and functioning equipment are rarely reviewed, and this can lead to them being out of date and not fit for purpose. They may not, for example, include changes in regulation, or reflect if physical systems have been upgraded.

A desktop audit helps to identify gaps in data and any billing problems. Once these issues have been recognised, the company can take measures to fill those gaps, by taking more meter readings or looking at water use in other areas of the business, and examining where these can be reduced.

It will allow you to get organised

The high level overview aspect of a desktop audit means that you can quickly see the highlights and the red flags of where the business is. It will also quickly establish the most urgent updates as well as the issues that can wait.

The audit will give an accurate first impression of what the opportunities are, and what is most necessary, so you can plan future work, prioritise the most essential requirements, and begin saving money immediately.

It will allow you to understand a full audit

A smaller, less detailed desktop audit can give you a taster of what is offered in a full water audit. Total Water Solutions is able to conduct these audits, and offer advice and guidance to firms to help them be more water efficient.

Having a better understanding of what a full water audit covers with little investment of time can help you establish whether it’s the right option to go for.

It could save you time

The desktop audit might well solve your water efficiency problems without needing to conduct a full audit. The quick check over your current working procedures or equipment could identify where changes could be made and the journey to total efficiency can begin right away.

Some of the tweaks and tune ups that could be quick wins for your business may be flagged up immediately, and you may then decide that this negates the need for a full audit. If you change your mind, you can always request a full audit at a later date.

It will allow you to make water efficiency part of the culture

Spending a little time conducting an audit will help to focus attention on the problem of water efficiency by including it on the agenda as part of a systematic process, rather than seeing it as an ad hoc event.

It is easy to only look at efficiency when there is a problem, for example a large bill or a broken pipe, however by conducting an audit, you may be able to identify where savings can be made before you reach the crisis point, and make this part of your routine.

 

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Saving Water by Concentrating on the Small Things

We naturally take our water for granted in this country, which is famed around the world for its inclement weather.

Therefore, most people don’t think twice of leaving the tap running as they brush their teeth; select a longer washing machine cycle than required or switching on a half-filled dishwasher.

The changing nature of the climate was reflected in this extended summer’s heatwave which left the levels of reservoirs in some areas of the country at worryingly low levels.

One drip from a leaky tap accounts for around 0.25ml of water. Not much, I know, but if a badly warn washer causes that tap to drip once per second, that turns into 15ml per minute, 900ml per hour or 21.6 litres per day – the equivalent of 29 bottles of wine.

Every day more than 17 billion litres enters the country’s water supply system to serve both households and businesses.

In 1830, one person would have used 18 litres per day. Today every person in the UK uses an average of 150 litres a day – much of it heated – for everything from drinking to washing and flushing the loo.

Multiply all the losses emanating from the nation’s dripping taps and leaking pipes and factor in all the unnecessary use and suddenly the water waste is shockingly high.

A traditional flush toilet uses 13 litres of water per flush, a washing machine 70, a five minute shower 35 and the average soak in the bath, 150 litres of water.

There are a whole host of ways in which we can either invest in more efficient technology or use a variety of water saving gadgets. Perhaps the most effective is simply to change the wasteful habits of a lifetime.

For example, using a pressure washer to clean the car will use around 600 litres of water per hour – which means even a two minute blast disposes of 20 litres. An average hosepipe uses up to 1,000 litres per hour

It‘s a much better idea to hand wash the car using a sponge, which often yields a cleaner finish. A typical car can easily be hand washed and rinsed using 20 litres of water.

Likewise, an efficient dishwasher will use about 11 litres of water per wash for a full load, although it’s debatable whether washing by hand saves on that amount.

A typical kitchen sink holds around 20 litres but this doesn’t take into account those who change the water part way through or rinse afterwards.

While dishwashers can be water efficient, the advice is to soak heavily soiled dishes first and scrape large food items into the bin.

One dishwasher load per day at 11 litres equates to 4,015 litres per year. Doing the dishes in the sink could use 7,300 litres per year.

Even if you are unconcerned at an environmental level, the resulting cost is substantial to households, businesses and industry.

For example, a modern Monobloc basin mixer tap uses four to five litres per minute. If the tap is left 20 per cent open it runs at a litre per minute – which is 60 litres per hour or 1,140 litres per day.

A leak of the same size from a business or industrial site uses the same amount of water which costs an estimated £1.87 per day for a leak of one litre per minute.

This also assumes that only one leak has occurred, however large sites have potential for multiple leaks.

We should also consider that some leaks can be at one litre per second, which is 60 times greater in both water loss and cost.

Some leaks which have gone unnoticed or ignored at small commercial premises can cost as much as £4,000 per year while a leak at a major manufacturing site easily costs £10,000. A large leak could potentially pour £20,000 straight down the financial drain.

By saving water, you will also save money, energy, cut carbon dioxide emissions and in doing so protect the environment for future generations.

We must all stop taking our water supply for granted and begin to think of it as a very precious resource which needs to be carefully managed and conserved.

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Top five ways of reducing contamination in wastewater

According to recent statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, more than 11 billion litres of wastewater are collected every day in UK sewers. This water is then treated by water treatment plants, including those managed by Total Water Solutions, before it is returned to the ecosystem, and any solid matter or contamination is safely disposed of, or used to create alternative energy. Without treatment, wastewater could be potentially hazardous to wildlife, or indeed humans and potentially the environment as a whole.

Households and businesses can all take action to reducing contamination in wastewater, as this reduces the risk of sewers becoming blocked, and improves the quality of water across the UK and helps maintain the longevity of the waste water systems.

Contaminated wastewater can also increase business costs, as additional work carried out by water companies to treat sewage will incur extra costs. In fact, it can hit four times over, in the cost of the mains water, the cost of the effluent volume, the cost of solids in the Mogden formula (the calculation used to find the required charges to collect, treat and dispose of industrial wastewater) and the cost of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD).

 

  1. Keep solids and contaminated items out of the drain

This includes solids, hazardous chemicals, medicines, and toxic materials. Solids should always be swept or vacuumed before they reach the drain, as they can cause blockages if they are flushed. This will also protect equipment, as particularly large solids can cause damage. Chemicals, medicines and toxins can affect the quality of water, even when it has been treated, and could potentially be poisonous. Instead, these should be disposed of correctly, with the business providing separate, specialist bins for chemical waste, medical waste and toxic materials.

 

  1. Install oil interceptors where needed

Capture oil and grease before it goes down the drain as it can build up and cause blockages in the sewerage systems, preventing the water from completing its journey to the treatment plant. Oil interceptors efficiently separate oil from any wastewater by passing it through a number of chambers, trapping the oil to be disposed of safely by a professional company.

 

  1. Only treat what you need to treat

Not all waste products need to be treated, as this will be a costly exercise for many businesses. Make sure that some discretion is applied when deciding what should go down the drain, to avoid unnecessary treatment and charges. Liquid waste can be segregated into a separate vessel from sediment, suspended solids, and other waste that it is not beneficial to treat. By separating effluent material prior to disposing of the waste, the water can be treated more directly and at a lower cost that the treatment plant separating it afterward.

 

  1. Reuse and Recycle

If the wastewater will not be harmful to the environment, you may consider reusing it as opposed to sending it for treatment immediately. It could be used for washing vehicles (although care should be taken to ensure any grit or solids have been removed to avoid scratches), watering plants and greenery, or rinsing external areas. This additional usage of the water will reduce the volume of effluent that needs to be treated and paid for.

 

  1. Monitor your wastewater

Keep accurate records of the volume and composition of wastewater, including when there are higher volumes of solids, chemicals, and other contamination. This means the business can identify peak periods where wastewater will need to be processed more substantially. A plan can then be drawn up to reduce this waste by refining manufacturing processes and introducing training to highlight how to reduce contamination during peak times.

 

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Ensuring Compliance with Health and Safety

Every business has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees, customers, or tenants.

For low-risk businesses like offices, health and safety can be a simple process. However, for businesses in other sectors there are a much wider range of issues to consider, particularly in terms of water compliance, and it can be challenging to stay up to date with these.

The risks of non-compliance are also high. There’s real potential for people to become ill if standards aren’t maintained, as well as legal and reputational consequences for businesses who do not meet the required standards.

Health and Safety Areas to Consider

Some of the water health and safety risks that you might need to act on include:

Water hygiene

Mains water is treated to be clean and safe for drinking. However, in some circumstances your business may be required to carry out additional water quality testing to make sure that your supply is up to standard. This is particularly important if your organisation has responsibility for vulnerable individuals, for example if you’re a healthcare organisation or a housing association.

Your business’s water infrastructure, such as pipes and tanks, could become a source of contamination if they’re not correctly maintained. Regular bacteriological testing as well as chlorination can help to manage this risk and prevent any problems.

Legionella

Every business has a responsibility to manage the risk of a legionella outbreak. While legionella occurs naturally at low levels in clean water, maintenance or infrastructure problems can provide a breeding ground where the bacteria could grow to dangerous levels. An outbreak can cause serious illness or even prove fatal, so regulations on legionella control should be high priority.

A legionella risk assessment can identify any areas of your business’s water infrastructure where the bacteria might be able to multiply. Simple changes and hygiene processes can then be put in place to prevent this from occurring.

Ensuring Health and Safety Compliance

To ensure your company stays on top of changing legislation and provides a safe environment for your employees and customers, there are a few steps to follow:

Conduct Thorough Risk Assessments

A risk assessment is the first stage of any business’s health and safety responsibilities. Risk assessment is the process of examining your business’s operations, working practices and equipment, and identifying any situations which could pose a risk to the health and safety of the people who are involved.

Getting risk assessments right is the key to ensuring that your water health and safety practices are fully compliant. The risk assessment will indicate what maintenance your water systems need and identify and remedial actions that need to be taken. It’s also important to ensure that they are kept up to date. If your processes change, new equipment is brought in, or new working practices are established, this could introduce new risks, so it’s important to conduct a new risk assessment.

Keep on top of changing legislation

Health and safety legislation and best practice changes regularly to reflect changes in industry practices or in available equipment to manage risk. It’s important that your company is aware of any changes that might affect them well in advance, so that you’re able to update your policies accordingly.

If your business is low-risk, such as an office, it’s quite possible that you’ll be able to stay on top of changing legislation yourself. However, if you’re in heavy industry or another higher-risk sector, the number of regulations you’ll be subject to is much higher, so an outside consultant might be better placed to help you stay up to date.

Maintain regular communication with your team

If you employ more than five people, your business has a legal responsibility to consult with employees on Health and Safety. While risk assessments will tell you a lot about the potential risks in your workplace, it’s important to also maintain regular communication with your team. As the people most familiar with your operations, they’re perfectly placed to advise you on risks that haven’t been identified, or procedures that aren’t working as well as they should be.

Put the right monitoring processes in place

No matter how carefully thought-through your health and safety processes are, their success depends on how well they’re implemented. Procedures are useless if they aren’t followed correctly, so ensuring compliance is a major priority for all businesses. Regular monitoring is a good way of ensuring that standards are being maintained. Monitoring doesn’t have to be complicated – even a simple checklist could give you the confidence that your policies are being implemented correctly.

Keep Your Business Compliant with TWS

At its heart, Health and Safety legislation is based on simple principles. However, getting the right processes, equipment and checks in place to fulfil your business’s responsibilities can be challenging.

TWS offers a range of services to help your business stay compliant with environmental health legislation, and maintain a safe working environment for your employees.

To find out more about our services, read our case studies or contact us.

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