B&Q launches water efficiency campaign

Britain’s biggest DIY chain B&Q is bringing niche water efficiency products to the mass market as part of a project with NGO Waterwise.

B&Q is introducing the items along with point-of-sale information on "easy and practical tips" to help customers save water in their homes and gardens. It is also highlighting the green credentials of items already stocked.

Garden products include drought-resistant plants, moisture-retaining mulches, water storage devices such as a 2800-litre underground storage tank and irrigation systems that use 90% less water than conventional watering.

To reduce household water use, the company is highlighting the most efficient dishwashers and washing machines on the UK market alongside water-efficient kitchen taps. It has also introduced dual-flush toilets, electric showers with eco-settings and taps designed to reduce water flow.

The company will promote the new range in national newspaper advertisements and run a radio campaign encouraging consumers to use a water calculator available on B&Q’s website. The company is now working on a summer garden watering campaign with the country’s water companies.

The initiative is the fruit of a partnership with Waterwise, an NGO launched in 2005 with a mission to reduce UK water use by 2010.

Waterwise is acting as a technical resource for B&Q: highlighting new developments, providing advice on areas for focus and helping the company develop consumer advice.

B&Q’s chief executive Ian Cheshire said the partnership had given the company a true sense of "how we can make most difference" and a "completeness of the subject". While the NGO said one of the biggest advantages has been its ability to vet new products for the company.

"If you are B&Q you haven’t the time to see lots of people," said Waterwise director Jacob Tompkins. "We act as a filter and show the most promising products to B&Q to see if we can get them to mass market and get the cost of these products down."

But while plenty of products are being introduced, B&Q has not committed to removing inefficient products from its shelves.

It has also ignored Waterwise’s water efficiency ranking of taps, showers and toilets, choosing to only highlight rankings for dishwashers and washing machines.

Nevertheless, Mr Cheshire said the partnership showed "this isn’t a flash in the pan initiative but one with serious intent with serious people." He said the company had focused on water as "one of its three core themes for the 21st century".

With the government unveiling compulsory water metering plans last month (ENDS Report 385, pp 46-47 ), Mr Cheshire predicted increasing attention to water efficiency.

"Fundamentally, the UK is in a poor position regarding water, but that position would be reversed if we all reduced the water we use and recycle what we do use more effectively," said Mr Cheshire. "So we have started to address it now. We’re able to effect real long-term change rather than looking for quick fixes."

Waterwise figures show that individual water use has risen by 30% since 1970 to average 150 litres per person per day. In the south-east, which last summer had a widespread hosepipe ban (ENDS Report 374, p 5 ), average individual water use is up to 163 litres per day.

"This consumption level is just not sustainable in the long term," said Mr Tompkins. "If we do not take action now, climate change, population shifts and behaviour mean the UK will face increased water stress in the future."