Apr 19, 2023

Water efficiency targets for UK housing

The UK has been busy establishing domestic water efficiency targets to prepare ourselves for climate change. Here’s a quick review.


The government has recently released its latest water efficiency policy paper for England [1]. Several objectives have been identified to reduce water demand, improve efficiency, and cut waste, which will save 4 billion litres of water per day by 2050.

The policy proposal is a continuation of the Environment Act 2021, in which a new legally binding target was set to reduce water consumption per head of population by 20% by 2038. To achieve this, it means reducing average daily usage to 122 litres per person per day (lpd) per person by 2038. This is part of a longer-term strategy to reduce personal usage to 110 lpd by 2050.

Several measures are within the proposed legislation that will affect social landlords.

Existing homes

  • Possibility of improved water efficiency standards to be included in the Decent Homes Standards, applicable when replacing items not meeting the criteria for good repair or reasonable facilities.
  • Instillation of smart water meters.
  • The inclusion of water scarcity information within Energy Performance Certificates.
  • Minimum standard for showers, taps and toilets and a mandatory water efficiency label, as most buildings would benefit from simple cost-effective retrofits to improve water efficiency.

New builds

  • Standardised sustainable drainage systems, including rainwater harvesting.
  • A review of the Building Regulations, 2010. Local authorities are being encouraged by central government to apply the tighter water efficiency standard of 110 lpd, with the view of reducing this to 100 lpd where there is a clear local need.
  • A review of dual pipe systems and water recycling systems.


We’ve reported previously about the consultation on Welsh social housing standards [2].  These also include an ultimate requirement to achieve 110 lpd.


We haven’t seen any announcements for targets in Scotland yet, but we do know that water efficiency is addressed in the building standards and the Scottish government is working on labels for water efficient products [3].

SHIFT assessments

As often is the case, it is best practice to act sooner rather than later. Awareness of water scarcity is rising, and it looks like regulations will be introduced that will require water saving measures and more efficient water supply fittings. Integrating water saving measures into scheduled maintenance and refurbishments, as well as new builds, now will save money and water, as they won’t need to be retrofitted later.

At SHIFT we have developed a calculator to help clients monitor their stock’s water efficiency. The latest data indicates that we are quite a way off safe environmental targets to preserve our precious water supply.

We have monitored other domestic water usage data and noticed that usage has risen since the pandemic – we assume due to more working from home and extra hand washing.  More alarmingly, the disparity between metered and non-metered water usage has increased from 10 lpd to 40 lpd [4].

We will be keeping a close eye on these targets as they will most likely have an impact on what can be considered a sustainable and climate resilient home.

If you would like to see how well prepared your stock is to the adverse effects of climate change, please get in touch for a chat on water efficiency, overheating risk and flood risk.


[1] ‘Plan for Water: our integrated plan for delivering clean and plentiful water’ (April 2023) addresses ‘Goal 3’ (Clean and plentiful water) as set out the Environment Improvement plan 2023 (EIP23)  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/plan-for-water-our-integrated-plan-for-delivering-clean-and-plentiful-water/plan-for-water-our-integrated-plan-for-delivering-clean-and-plentiful-water

[2] https://shiftenvironment.co.uk/news/consultation-on-new-quality-standard-for-welsh-social-homes/

[3] https://www.gov.scot/news/action-on-water-efficiency/

[4] https://www.discoverwater.co.uk/amount-we-use

Image by Sasikan Ulevik on Unsplash


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