How SMEs could unlock cash for growth by saving on water charges

Published: 19 Feb 2015 07:30

Special Report: Water Supply - The Choices

By Ian Hewson - SAVING money is something every SME has an interest in but not every small business will consider water as an obvious place to start.

“Simple things like fitting tap aerators and toilet cistern hippos can save thousands of litres of water every year” – Ian Hewson, Business Stream

“Simple things like fitting tap aerators and toilet cistern hippos can save thousands of litres of water every year” – Ian Hewson, Business Stream

Every business needs to pay for its water but it’s possible to take control of and reduce your water bill. Whether your company is a start-up looking for a new connection or an existing customer looking for a better deal the first thing you need to know is how much water you are already using, or expect to use, in the coming months.

So where’s the best place to start? Firstly it’s up to you to make sure your existing or potential supplier has a full understanding of your needs.

A good supplier should be able to benchmark your water use against similar companies, which will provide a good place to start planning.

Different suppliers offer a variety of different tariffs so it’s important to make sure you are on the rate which best suits your needs. Study your historic use to make sure you’re on the most economical rate.

For some customers, automated meter readers could also offer significant efficiencies. These allow you to monitor and analyse water use, giving you the information you need to identify areas where efficiencies can be made. While many businesses may have one meter fitted, the installation of several sub-meters – close to areas of higher use – will help isolate anomalies in your system.

There are also options for businesses which don’t use much water. Simple things like fitting tap aerators and toilet cistern hippos can save thousands of litres of water every year. It might also be worth asking your supplier to audit your network for leaks. If your business is using more water because of a faulty pipe then a quick repair will ultimately save you money

For some companies, supplementing mains supply with alternative sources may provide long-term efficiencies by taking control of their supply source. For example, investing in rainwater harvesting equipment, boreholes, or extraction from canals and rivers are all potential options. Their suitability will depend on the purpose for which you intend to use the water.

It’s worth noting that all of these alternative sources require upfront capital, but SMEs using a high water volumes can recoup the initial investment. How long that takes is largely based on the quality of water extracted and the volumes you are using. Boreholes, for example, are likely to pay themselves off over two to five years.

The most important factor across all options is not to take your package for granted. By making the time to have an in-depth conversation with potential suppliers SMEs stand the best chance of realising savings which could be reinvested into future growth.

Ian Hewson is head of Water at Business Stream, a Scottish water company which supplies to more than 93,000 customers, across every sector, from manufacturing to maternity units.

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