In April 2017, the non-domestic water market in England was deregulated, allowing businesses to switch water suppliers. Yet many businesses have still failed to take advantage of the opportunity provided by deregulation.
There is often a lack of understanding of the water market amongst businesses which can result in overpaying for the water used. So, what does your business need to know about water usage? And how can your business lower its water bills?
The rules for switching water suppliers
Water deregulation for the non-domestic sector began in Scotland in April 2008. This meant that businesses were no longer required to stay with their regional supplier.
Since the market opened in Scotland, over 60% of customers were estimated to have received discounts with businesses saving over £133 million.
This success led to the deregulation of the water market in England in April 2017. 1.2 million organisations can now shop around for their water services to find a deal that suits their needs.
As a result of deregulation, businesses now have a much greater choice when comparing water suppliers.
Businesses are now billed by water retailers, rather than traditional regional water companies. This has allowed new, independent entrants such as Everflow Water, Castle Water, and Yu Energy to challenge traditional suppliers and offer greater choice to businesses.
There are now more than 25 water retailers in the UK and it is hoped that when organisations compare business water suppliers, greater competition will lead to more savings in the non-domestic sector. The average saving businesses make when visiting energy and water business comparison site Love Energy Savings for example, sits at £150 per year.
The water switching process
The water market now operates in much the same way as the gas and electricity market for non-domestic customers.
Businesses have the option of approaching retailers directly or using a comparison service to find the latest water prices. With the growing number of water retailers, approaching them directly can be an incredibly time-consuming option for businesses. Even after investing hours into the process, missing out on potential deals is still likely.
A comparison service can allow you to receive quotes from a wide range of water retailers in minutes. The process of switching your water provider can even be managed for you. Once you’ve received your quote, you will simply be required to choose the best price for your business.
Preparing for water outages
The effect of a water outage on a business is not something we often consider. In fact, research has suggested that only 1 in 10 SMEs have a plan for operating without water. With almost 4 in 10 SMEs having faced a water supply problem over a 12-month period, interruptions can be much more likely than expected.
Whether water is critical to the running of your business, or you simply rely on water for the brews and toilets, it’s vital to have a water outage plan in place.
It’s important to start with prevention measures. Check for any leaks at your premises that could affect your business water supply. A simple way to do this is using your water meter. Make sure there are no large, unexpected increases in your water usage.
Keep track of how much water you use at your premises each day. This will allow you to have an idea of how much water you’ll need should any problems arise. Checking these figures at different times of the year will give you the most accurate results.
If you do suffer a water outage, your first point of contact will often be the water wholesaler for your region. They can provide advice on whether others in your area have been affected and keep you up to date with any actions they are taking to correct the problems.
How to save water at your business
Even on the best tariffs available, water costs can be a sizeable outgoing for businesses. Smaller business can spend up to £1,000 per year on water with medium-sized businesses facing annual bills of almost £7,500.
With businesses accounting for around 25% of the UK’s total water usage, it’s vital to find water efficiencies.
One of the most important steps is to monitor water usage. Many water retailers will provide businesses with a smart water meter, making it easy to track your usage. A smart water meter will also allow you to measure the impact of any water-saving measures you put in place.
It’s important to remember that simple steps can make a big difference. Encouraging staff to only fill a kettle with the water needed, only use dishwashers when full, and ensure taps are closed properly can have a real impact on water usage. In fact, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that stopping dripping taps could save 5,000 litres of water per year.
Water-saving products will often be a sound investment for businesses. Cistern water savers can save around 1 litre of water with every flush. Fitting tap aerators will ensure that your taps use 50% less water when running. Adding tap aerators can save your business around 1,274 litres of water each month.
Consider fitting a water butt to the outside of your building. Rainwater is free and British weather will give you plenty of opportunities to make use of it. This water can be used for cleaning or even simply watering any plants around your business premises.
For water-savings tips that are easy to follow in the office, check out this downloadable water-waste reduction checklist.
Conducting a business water audit
Over 50% of British businesses are estimated to waste money overpaying for their water bills. This wasted water is estimated to cost businesses up to £3.5 billion each year.
Implementing simple water-saving measures will help you reduce your wastage. However, a business water audit is the best way to get a full picture of your water usage.
A water audit is a full assessment of your commercial water usage. You can employ a specialist water auditor to carry out the assessment for you. The audit will analyse your water consumption, recent bills, and assess any wastage and leaks at your premises.
Once the assessment is complete, your auditor will provide recommendations on how you can improve your water usage. You can also understand how water efficient your business is compared with similar organisations.
In some cases, your business will be entitled to a free water audit when you switch water suppliers.