Utilities Digital Solutions Europe

Enabling whole life carbon in design – Three British water companies unite

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Three British water companies have joined forces on a new project which incorporates carbon considerations into the heart of the design and governance decision-making processes in the water sector.


Enabling Whole Life Carbon in Design 

Anglian Water, in collaboration with Affinity Water and Welsh Water, have launched: ‘Enabling Whole Life Carbon in Design’ with the support of partners including @one Alliance, Skanska, and Sweco. 

The project seeks to address carbon emissions as a significant driver of climate change by providing tools and processes that support cultural and behavioral changes necessary for low whole life carbon and cost investments, ultimately aiming for zero carbon emissions.

Comprehensive approach to carbon accounting

Anglian Water said the project's goal is to transition the sector from purely focusing on capital and operational carbon accounting to a more comprehensive approach, managing the entire carbon cost over a project's lifecycle. This approach is expected to result in time, cost, energy, and carbon savings, benefiting both the environment and customers.

“Our methodology and database template enables clear decisions regarding carbon reduction based on data insights and visualisations,” said project lead Laura Taylor, innovation project manager at One Alliance. 

“Our playbook and carbon accounting tool is applicable not only to the UK water sector, but internationally too and the methodology, tools and processes that have been developed can be tailored to any part of the built environment sector and any project, irrespective of size.”

Net-zero by 2050

In 2019, English water companies made a bold commitment to reach net-zero on operational emissions by 2030. Since then, counterparts in Scotland and Wales have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality across all emissions by 2040, while Northern Ireland has set its sights on the same target by 2050. These pledges reflect a growing awareness of the water sector's role in addressing the climate crisis.

Climate change is manifesting through increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. These events are placing substantial pressure on water resources and infrastructure, endangering the sector's ability to provide reliable and sustainable water supplies. Moreover, rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are altering the water cycle, impacting water quality and availability.

The consequences of climate change are starkly evident in the projections for the water sector. Total water supply is forecast to decrease by seven per cent by 2045, primarily due to the climate emergency and limits on sustainable abstraction. Furthermore, the likelihood of water restrictions due to droughts in England is twice as high between 2020 and 2050 compared to the period from 1997 to 2004. The risk of a serious drought leading to water deficits and supply restrictions hovers between one-in-seven and one-in-four.

Anglian Water was unavailable for comment on its new initiative.