Water industry builds a new foundation for measuring sustainability

The water industry unveiled a new set of sustainability indicators on Monday which will monitor the sector’s progress towards sustainability

Although the sector has been reporting on sustainability since 1998, occasional reviews of the indicators have been needed to ensure a uniform approach and appropriate method of measurement. The last revamp was in 2003, but the 67 indicators reported on since 2004 were proving inadequate.

Water UK responded by initiating a review in 2006 which has now delivered a new set of indicators. The indicators and results for 2007/08 were announced at an industry seminar this week.

The initiative includes Scottish Water and Northern Ireland Water as well as all English and Welsh companies.

Energy use by the sector is still increasing, the figures show at 8,290GWh per year. Although all companies are now measuring their greenhouse gas emissions, it is yet possible to say whether greenhouse gas emissions per litre of water supplied, or per litre of sewage treated, are rising or falling.

The industry reports an improving performance in drinking water quality, prosecutions, sludge recycling and leakage from water mains, but a deterioration in measures such as interruptions to water supply and employee turnover.

New indicators where no comparison with previous performance is yet possible include renewable energy generated and used by the sector, total volume of water abstracted from the environment, chemical use per litre of water supplied or wastewater treated and the proportion of aggregate procured from recycled sources.

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