North West developers save £44m with United Utilities water efficient homes

20 Jul 2022

A United Utilities program to encourage sustainable water use and drainage in new homes has saved developers more than £40m and created potential for saving 3.8 million litres of water a day.

Since 2018, United Utilities has been offering a 90% reduction in charges to developers building water efficient homes that include measures to reduce water usage to 100 litres per person per day (lppd). To date, more than 86,000 plots have been registered with many of these already built, creating savings of £25m for developers.

A similar reduction on wastewater charges is also available for properties that do not connect surface water drains to existing sewers. This has attracted more than 58,000 plots and generated savings of more than £19m.

Developers can save up to £523 per new plot when building a water efficient home that discharges surface water sustainably. Both schemes are still available to developers building homes in the North West.

Graham Morley Strategy and Compliance Manager at United Utilities said: “We’ve been offering a 90% reduction in charges to developers who are building homes in the North West of England that are either water efficient or feature sustainable drainage since 2018.

“At that time, our target was 110 lppd usage to improve on the 125 litres standard included in building regulations. Due to the success of the scheme and being keen to encourage further water efficiency we reduced the threshold to 100 lppd in 2020.”

The same reduction is also available to developers providing sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) by channelling surface water away from sewers. By replicating natural drainage, SuDS help meet environmental challenges such as climate change and population growth, manage flood risk and water quality, and can also provide amenity benefits and habitats for plants and animals.

Graham Morley added: “It’s great to see so many developers innovating and rising to the challenge of building homes which are water efficient and feature sustainable drainage. We are considering a number of future incentives including rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling, smart water butts and infiltration systems for surface water drainage. We’re also trialling whole-home water flow regulators with some of our own employees.”

Kieran Walker, Technical Director for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) said: “We are pleased to see the success and very much support the initiative piloted by United Utilities giving a real benefit to our members that is also passed through to customers of new homes in the North West.

“Water consumption and efficiency will be key to the design of new homes as we move forward to the Future Homes Standard in 2025, so to see a pioneering approach like this driven by the water supplier is very much welcomed and is in stark contrast to other areas of the country where slowdowns in housing delivery have been encountered, due to a lack of forward planning in relation to water abstraction. HBF and its members welcome this partnering approach and feel it should and could be replicated in areas of high water scarcity.”

The incentive has been welcomed by Keepmoat Homes, who have now adopted the standard nationally. Gareth Rogers, Services Manager said: “The sustainability advantages are clear to see. The reduced water usage in each plot due to the fittings used throughout allows for a more sustainable product and therefore reduces the water usage of the customers living in our properties. This is extremely beneficial to the customers, particularly in the current climate with increased living costs, as the less water they use, the lower their bills could be.”

The standard has also been adopted by Wain Homes, Richard Chamberlain – Managing Director, Wain Homes North West said: “Improving the environmental sustainability of the homes we build is of huge importance to Wain Homes. Through partnering with United Utilities and careful selection of the fittings in each home we have been able control water consumption to less than 100 litres per person per day, well within the building regulations standard of 125 litres per person per day. Building water saving features into our homes is a win-win for the environment and for our customers, who benefit from ongoing savings on their water bills over the typical home.”