Water Industry on the Eco Wave?

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Courtesy of oekom research AG

A wave of privatization is rolling through the water industry – at the environment‘s expense? In order to provide an answer to this question, the Environmental-Rating agency oekom research AG, Munich, put a number of water supply companies and manufacturers of water appliances to the environmental test. In results published today, oekom identifies the British water supplier Severn Trent as the environmental leader of the water supply group with a B grade in the overall Environmental-Rating. The Austrian water appliance manufacturer BWT came in first of the water appliance manufacturers.

Stringent Regulations – Insufficient Initiative

In addition to the new challenges of operating in a competitive environment, the water industry is also facing ever increasing demands from regulators. The study shows that while the surveyed companies are generally complying with the relevant laws, few are developing own strategies for a sustainable water industry. For example, there are few research activities on the consequences of water abstraction, such as the long term monitoring of groundwater levels.

Activities to Reduce Water Consumption

That the industrialized world has to reduce its water consumption significantly is an undisputed fact. For the water suppliers, one of the major tasks lying ahead is reducing the water losses from the distribution systems which in the UK alone could supply enough water to over 28 million people. The fact that all of the water suppliers are modernizing their distribution systems is positive; some of them are even exceeding government regulations. But water losses in some cases continue to be over 20% of total water delivered, which highlights the need for further reductions.

Water Appliance Manufacturers Less Cooperative

Out of six manufacturers of water appliances that were approached for the environmental survey, only two were willing to have their environmental activities assessed externally. The Austrian company BWT is the environmental leader in this industry at this time, as it already takes account of environmental aspects in the design of its products. In addition, BWT guarantees to take back all products sold after 1993.

In Sum

Overall, the survey showed that companies in the water supply industry are generally active in environmental protection, though they rely heavily on regulatory demands. Water appliance manufacturers on the other hand, seem to be believe that their products alone are a sufficient contribution to environmental protection. Corporate environmental management activities in this latter group are still an exception.

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