The purpose of this Guidance Note is to provide asset managers, property managers and facilities managers with information relating to benchmarking water usage and setting water saving targets within commercial properties.
The real estate sector continues to make progress in resource efficiency. Like any area of performance management, establishing benchmarks and monitoring targets can demonstrate that practical actions are succeeding in conserving water, and that organisations are making progress towards their resource efficiency commitments.
It is important to distinguish between a benchmark and a target.
A benchmark is a point of reference which acts as a comparison to something similar.
A target is a qualitative or quantitative outcome that an organisation aims to achieve in the future. Targets should be ‘SMART’: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound.
Every day, water companies provide around 14,000 million litres of water for public water supply. The Environment Agency has warned that around 3,435 million extra litres of water could be required each day, if no action is taken to improve the efficiency of water usage between 2025 and 20501. (is this in the UK?)
Inefficient water consumption causes damage to the ecosystem, through unnecessarily high rates of water abstraction, and represents a waste of financial and energy resources in treating water to be fit for use.
Setting targets and using various benchmarking tools to compare performance against peers and good practice standards can help improve processes, services and products. Ultimately, this will help identify processes to reduce water use and cut costs.
Targets are important as they enable performance to be monitored and can help to align a company’s focus with statutory requirements.
Benchmarks provide a useful tool which can help to ascertain:
In turn, the understanding provided by benchmarking can inform the level of ambition and corresponding targets.
Water targets are also a core component of a submission of voluntary disclosure schemes. For all participants in these schemes, disclosure of water performance offers an opportunity to benchmark wider sustainability performance against peers, and the potential to enhance their brand, if performance is favourable.
For stock-exchange listed companies, which are often included in environmental and social governance exchange traded funds, participation in voluntary disclosure schemes creates an additional financial incentive.
The table below summarises the key activities associated with benchmarking and setting water targets, and highlights where asset managers, property managers and facilities managers are likely to have a responsibility or specific interest.
Benchmarking: 1- Collate water consumption data
Benchmarking: 2 - Normalise benchmarking data
Benchmarking: 3 - Consider appropriate benchmarks
Setting targets: 1 - Consider external and internal drivers
Setting targets: 2 - Consider boundaries and normalisation
Setting targets: 3 - Collaborate with occupiers
Usually, the decision to participate in a benchmarking scheme, or to set property or portfolio water targets, is taken by an asset manager. The process of collating information that will inform this decision is coordinated by the property manager with input from the facilities manager.
Key considerations for benchmarking and setting energy targets are described below:
Water consumption data can be collected from invoices, incoming water meters, or submeters connected to data collecting platforms.
Obtaining the most reliant water consumption data involves taking regular readings from the incoming meters or reviewing output from automated data collection platform.
Before proceeding with a benchmarking exercise, it is important to normalise water benchmarking data, where possible. Unlike an absolute benchmark, a normalised water benchmark facilitates a like-for-like comparison with other properties or portfolios.
Normalisation can be delivered via a range of metrics, including, for example:
Annual water use in cubic meters (m3):
It is important that a benchmark aligns with a property or portfolio’s business strategy. There are a number of benchmarks which cover water consumption. These include, for example:
The following are all useful benchmarking options that could be considered:
It is also important to consider how a water target is set based on what is possible within strategic, budgetary and infrastructural constraints. This includes understanding what action and investment would be required to achieve the target, and considering the extent to which this resource, and the required actions, are achievable.
Understanding the water consumption profile of a property or portfolio, and the potential contribution that may be available through different energy saving opportunities, can inform a decarbonisation pathway and incremental targets within it.
Ideally, a target should combine both external and internal drivers.
Water consumption targets should always be applied within a defined boundary. For example, organisations may decide to take:
Collaboration between property managers and occupiers will increase the likelihood that water consumption targets will be achieved. This may include, for example:
The following Guidance Notes contain related information: