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Could Water Wastage Ruin the UK’s Carbon Emission Targets?

By Rob Hull on June 24, 2010

The UK’s carbon emission targets have been widely discussed by politicians, scientists, green lobbyists, construction firms and many others; in fact, it would be difficult to find an adult of sound mind in the UK who has not been informed of the country’s green ambitions.

Although it is arguably the case that most ordinary citizens remain blissfully unaware of the carbon emission targets in specific detail, it is evident that many households have taken steps to address the problem of global warming.

Thousands of homes, for instance, have had cavity walls and lofts insulated in an attempt to reduce heat loss, whilst more ambitious households have installed solar hot water heating, wind turbines or geothermal pumps. Recent research backed by the Energy Saving Trust, however, suggests that most households contribute towards a “forgotten threat” to carbon reduction targets.

According to the research, the water that is used in UK homes accounts for 89% of the country’s carbon emissions from water. Although water is not generally included in thoughts on carbon emissions, the various processes it endures contribute massively to the overall environmental picture; aside from being heated in homes, water is pumped and treated in massive quantities at the industrial level.

The claim that domestic water usage accounts for almost 90% of all carbon emissions from water is, therefore, shocking to say the least. Furthermore, it could also indicate that the UK Government’s plans to reduce total carbon emissions by 29% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 are unrealistic unless households do more to improve water efficiency.

Simple and somewhat obvious ways in which water consumption can be reduced at the domestic level include purchasing energy efficient washing machines and dishwashers; older, less energy efficient models are notoriously thirsty and produce significantly higher quantities of CO2.

The Energy Saving Trust also claims domestic hot water accounts for approximately 33 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year, which is why it has advised homeowners to think carefully about their choice of central heating boiler. Switching from an E-rated boiler to an A-rated condensing boiler could not only help the UK meet its carbon emission targets, but it could also save homeowners around £225 per year in heating bills.