Opinion

Managing the risks associated with your water system

It's all too easy to take a constant supply of clean, safe water for granted. For businesses in particular, it can be easy to underestimate how important water is. Many people forget that their businesses wouldn’t be able to run without a consistent, reliable water supply, whether it's required as an ingredient in a manufacturing process, or for ensuring the well-being of employees or customers.

A disruption to your water supply can pose serious risks to your business, so being aware of the potential pitfalls, and taking steps to manage them, is vital to avoid potential loss of revenue. In this article, we’ll discuss the main risk areas businesses should be aware of, as well as simple ways to reduce the chances of problems occurring.

Leaks and burst pipes

What’s the risk to your business?

Leaking water pipes are a liability for your business. Even a small, 5-litre-per-minute leak can add five thousand pounds per year to your water bill, increasing costs. It’s not always obvious if a leak is eating into your profit margins, either. Only 5% of leaks become visible above the surface, and if this does happen it’s not always at the location of the leak. This means that leaks can go undetected for some time, wasting tens of thousands of pounds in the process.

For businesses who rely on water, though, a burst pipe can have even further reaching effects. Many businesses rely on a constant water supply to keep their operations running. Manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality business in particular could have no option but to close their doors if their water supply were disrupted, leading to lost revenue on top of increased costs from leaking water.

How to manage it

With many buildings relying on aging and unreliable infrastructure to stay in business, monitoring and maintaining your water network is vital to prevent avoidable disruptions to your business. Leaks aren’t always easy to spot, and the majority never become visible above ground.

One key way to identify potential leaks is accurate measurement. Real-time usage monitoring systems like our Automated Meter Reading technology can flag when and where usage is increasing, identifying potential leaks.

If you suspect a leak already exists in your water system, our leak detection experts can identify the leak and propose next steps. Depending on your circumstances, our Find and Fix Solution can identify and fix leaks immediately, or can schedule repair work for a time that will minimise disruption to your business.

While there are many different methods of finding and fixing leaks when they happen, prevention is always the best approach. Pre-emptive monitoring and maintenance of your pipes can identify and fix potential problems before they occur. Maintaining older networks to keep them in good condition is the best way to avoid footing the bill for wasted water, as well as potential loss of earnings if your supply is interrupted.

Legionella and water hygiene

What’s the risk to your business?

Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia, caused by the inhalation of water droplets containing high levels of legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria are present in low numbers in many natural water systems, but their numbers can increase to dangerous levels where the conditions are right for bacterial growth. Showers, swimming pools and cooling towers are all common areas where the risk of legionella is increased.

All businesses have a legal responsibility to ensure that the water they provide to their employees, tenants or customers is safe and hygienic. Legionella is potentially deadly, and outbreaks are widely reported in the media. If proper preventative measures aren’t taken, businesses can find themselves responsible for causing sickness or even death, with the serious legal and reputational consequences that follow.

How to manage it

All businesses, landlords and other people who control premises have a responsibility to assess the potential risk from legionella, and take appropriate steps to manage it. This starts with a thorough risk assessment to identify any areas in your water system where legionella could multiply.

The risk assessment will lead to schedule of remedial work, to fix any issues within your water systems that might increase the risk unnecessarily. This will be followed by an ongoing management process to ensure that any remaining risk areas are controlled.

Fortunately, simple preventative processes can prevent a legionella outbreak, and once a risk assessment has been conducted, ongoing management of legionella risk is relatively straightforward as long as the correct processes are in place and the right records are kept.

It can be challenging for businesses to stay up to date with changes to legislation and get the right processes in place, particularly when there are so many other priorities to focus on. For this reason, it’s vital to make sure that your business has the support it needs to stay compliant.

Sustainability and water scarcity

What’s the risk to your business?

A plentiful supply of clean, clear water is something most of us take for granted. However, this is likely to change for many in the coming years.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts that global water demand will increase 55% by 2050, with the bulk of the increase coming from industry. This level of increased demand is likely to be unsustainable, and combined with increasingly unpredictable weather patterns could mean that even in the UK, water scarcity is a growing risk.

Globally, water scarcity is a high priority for an increasing number of businesses, and many are taking steps to prepare for the future and reduce their exposure.

How to manage it

The best way for your business to reduce risk from water scarcity is to reduce usage, and this is a high priority focus for some of the world’s biggest brands. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have both reduced their water usage by around a quarter since 2006.

Even simple efficiency measures can lead to big savings, helping to save money in the short term whilst lowering your business’s exposure to potential future shortages. Beyond the basics of avoiding waste by monitoring your usage and fixing leaks, there are a huge variety of different measures your company could take to reduce their water usage. The best approach will be highly personalised to your business, its requirements and usage patterns.

Water risk management should also feature in your business’s supply chain strategy to ensure that you are adequately prepared. What will you do if costs increase, or if there are shortages? While this might seem like a remote possibility, the potential disruption to your business could be significant, so putting plans in place ahead of time is vital.

Develop Your Business’s Water Risk Management Strategy

If you’re working to manage risks associated with your business’s water infrastructure, our expert consultants can help. We work in partnership with your business to understand its water needs in-depth, and identify potential risks and opportunities.

From there, our team will work with your business to develop and implement a comprehensive water management strategy, giving you confidence that your business is well-prepared for the future, contact us to find out more.

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