Yvonne Orgill, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers' Association, has urged government and industry to focus on changing the public's attitude to water saving.
Speaking at an event in the Houses of Parliament, which was co-hosted by the BMA, National Home Improvement Council and Ideal Standard, Orgill said the public was "fed up" with being told they needed to save water.
"In recent years consumers have been quietly grumbling, thinking they’re being asked to be green for green’s sake," she said, "but the volume of those grumbles is growing. Consumers are becoming increasingly cynical. We are in a recession, after all. Many homeowners are in negative equity. Some people have lost their jobs and our European neighbours seem to be lurching from one crisis to another. We’re all frightened that it’s all going to fall, like a big game of economic dominoes. Why on earth should we worry about saving water at a time like this?
"Whatever the public perception, we know that the combination of a growing global population and only a finite amount of water, means that inevitably we need to reduce water consumption instead of allowing our thirst to grow. It’s not about us, this summer or next. It’s about making sure there is enough water for our children. Our grandchildren. THEIR grandchildren."
Orgill explained that the BMA, and the bathroom industry as a whole, has answered the challenge with the Water Label Scheme, which she said "helps consumers make an informed choice about the credentials of the product they’re about to buy. The challenge is a balancing act for our industry, between encouraging consumers to reduce their water usage, and developing products that deliver an experience like we didn’t have a water care in the world."
Noting that the public don't want to feel they have to compromise on their own comfort levels in order to save water, Orgill said there were many products now on the market that use less water without ruining that enjoyable bathroom experience.
"Improvements in water performance have been going on for the past two or three decades. The days of the 13 litre toilet flush are thankfully stuck in the 1960s, as most of us are used to the frugal 6 and 4 litre dual flush. Although that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of these outdated WCs still around - some 8 million in the UK currently use more water than current standards deem necessary.
"We have moved on massively from the bathroom crimes being committed in the 80s - those 20 or even 30 litre a minute power showers which could drain a conventional hot water tank in a matter of minutes. Advanced product design has given us showers which use the Venturi effect to give the feeling of a powerful, satisfying shower. The very best of these use just 6 litres per minute - and I’d defy a consumer to find fault with the experience."
The Bathroom Manufacturers Association recently undertook a piece of research into consumer attitudes towards water usage.Three quarters of people said they felt saving water was one of the hardest things to do. A quarter admitted they’d never made efforts to reduce the amount of water they use.
Orgill said that a financial incentive was needed to encourage homeowners to change their attitudes and that, while cold water was seen as cheap, hot water is expensive, and that rising utility bills would only exacerbate this.
"Reducing hot water consumption can make a difference where it matters - to people’s pockets. Heating water for use in the bathroom accounts for a quarter of average household utility bills. Our research shows that the most efficient items in the bathroom can help people save up to £300 a year on their utility bills.
"Hot water generation in the home also accounts for 5% of total UK carbon emissions. This means it is an issue which suddenly stretches beyond just Defra. Reducing energy consumption in the bathroom is something DEFRA needs to start looking at seriously. Bathroom products are absent from Green Deal proposals currently. I encourage the government to think again on this, especially as 80% of consumers say they would fit water efficient bathroom products if a financial incentive was available like the Boiler Scrappage scheme."