Water Neutrality: Everything You Need to Know

Water neutrality is a concept that seeks to balance water usage by taking into account the water footprint of individuals, communities, and businesses. It goes beyond water conservation and focuses on offsetting water consumption through various methods such as water recycling, rainwater harvesting, and supporting water conservation projects.

In this article, we will explore the concept of water neutrality and its potential to address the water crisis we face today.

What is Water Neutrality?

what is water neutrality

Water neutrality refers to the concept of balancing water consumption with water conservation measures to achieve an overall neutral impact on water resources.

It involves implementing strategies and practices that aim to reduce water usage, and increase water efficiency, whilst promoting water recycling and reuse.

The goal of water neutrality is to minimize the strain on water resources, alleviate water stress, and protect the environment. This approach recognizes the finite nature of water and the need to manage it sustainably.

By implementing water neutrality measures, individuals, businesses, and communities can contribute to the conservation of water and ensure its availability for future generations.

Benefits of Water Neutrality

Here are some benefits which give you an idea of what’s possible:

  • Sustainable Water Management: Water neutrality encourages more sustainable use and management of water resources. It reduces overuse and waste, leading to a more sustainable and resilient water supply.
  • Preservation of Ecosystems: By managing water usage effectively, we can prevent over-extraction and contamination of water resources, thus preserving aquatic ecosystems.
  • Improved Health: Access to clean water is directly linked to improved health outcomes. Through water neutrality, more efforts would be put into water sanitation and hygiene, which could reduce the prevalence of water-borne diseases.
  • Economic Benefits: Water-intensive industries, like agriculture, manufacturing, and energy production, could benefit economically from water neutrality. Sustainable water practices could lead to cost savings through efficiency, reduce the risk of water-related business interruptions, and potentially open up new business opportunities in water-saving and treatment technologies.
  • Promotion of Innovation: Striving for water neutrality could spur innovation in technology and practices related to water efficiency, water recycling, and water purification.
  • Social Equity: Ensuring water neutrality can also contribute to social equity, given the water scarcity issues prevalent in many parts of the world. By promoting responsible water usage and management, we can work towards ensuring that everyone has access to clean, safe water.
  • Mitigation of Climate Change Impact: As climate change intensifies, areas around the world are experiencing increased droughts and other water-related problems. A commitment to water neutrality can help mitigate the impact of these events and increase resilience in the face of a changing climate.

Benefits for Residential Homes

water neutrality in the home

Residential homes can also see several benefits from striving for water neutrality. Here are a few:

  • Cost Savings: One of the most immediate benefits for homeowners is the potential for reduced utility and energy bills. By implementing water-saving measures, households can significantly reduce their monthly water costs.
  • Improved Resilience: In areas susceptible to drought or where water supplies are unpredictable, achieving water neutrality can provide a certain level of resilience. Utilizing strategies such as rainwater collection and greywater recycling can ensure a more stable, self-sufficient water supply.
  • Environmental Impact: Achieving water neutrality at home contributes to wider environmental sustainability, protecting water resources and aiding in the preservation of local ecosystems.
  • Value Increase: Homes that have water-saving features or technologies can potentially see an increase in their market value. Sustainable features are increasingly attractive to home buyers.
  • Community Impact: Water neutrality at the individual level contributes to the wider community’s ability to manage water resources, particularly in areas where water resources are shared.
  • Educational Opportunities: Striving for water neutrality at home can provide valuable educational opportunities for households, particularly for children, about the importance of conserving resources and sustainability.
  • Health Benefits: Using less water can reduce the risk of water-borne diseases, especially in areas where water sanitation is a problem. Additionally, using techniques such as rainwater harvesting can provide a source of water that’s free from many of the contaminants found in the public water supply.
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Achieving water neutrality at the household level not only makes economic sense but also contributes to sustainability and resilience, both at the local community level and the broader environment.

Benefits for Businesses

water neutrality for buinesses

If you’re a business, then there are numerous benefits for you when it comes to achieving water neutrality. These include:

  • Cost Savings: Businesses that use a lot of water, such as manufacturing and food production industries, can reduce costs through improved water efficiency measures and offset schemes.
  • Risk Reduction: Achieving water neutrality helps companies manage the risk associated with water scarcity, especially those in water-stressed regions. This is increasingly relevant in the face of climate change and the associated increased risk of droughts.
  • Brand Reputation: A commitment to water neutrality and a combination of water efficiency, can enhance a company’s reputation among consumers, many of whom increasingly value environmental responsibility. It can also improve a company’s standing among investors who are concerned about ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) issues. This is often now communicated by implementing what’s becoming known as a “water deficit”.
  • Regulatory Compliance: As more governments implement policies to manage water resources better, companies aiming for water neutrality can ensure they meet these regulations and avoid potential fines or sanctions.
  • Innovation and Growth: Striving for water neutrality can lead to the development of new technologies and practices, potentially opening up new business opportunities. Water-saving, recycling, or treatment technologies can become new revenue streams.
  • Supply Chain Resilience: Companies that depend on supply chains in water-stressed areas can enhance their resilience and stability by promoting water neutrality in their supply chain. This can lead to more reliable operations and potentially protect the company from price volatility.
  • Investor Attraction: Sustainable practices, such as water neutrality, are increasingly valued by investors. Demonstrating a commitment to and into investments in water management and sustainable practices can help attract investment from those interested in ESG issues.

By pursuing water neutrality, companies not only contribute to global sustainability goals but also protect and potentially enhance their own operational efficiency, financial performance, and reputation. It can also support more environmentally friendly types of development.

How Can You Achieve Water Neutrality?

how to achieve water neutrality

Achieving water neutrality requires a balance between the amount of water used and the amount of water saved, replenished, or treated. Here are some general steps that can be taken on the matter of water neutrality:

  • Assess Water Use: The first step to water neutrality is understanding your current water use. This can involve tracking water use over time, identifying the biggest areas of water use, and looking for leaks or inefficiencies. This is where smart meters play a key role.
  • Implement Water-Saving Measures: This could include installing water-efficient appliances and fixtures, such as low-flow showerheads, dual-flush toilets, and energy-star-rated appliances. For businesses, it could mean improving processes for the reduction of water usage or reusing water where possible. For farms, it might involve using more efficient irrigation systems. Moving forwards, any increase in water consumption today will not be deemed sustainable.
  • Harvest Rainwater: Rainwater harvesting systems can be a great way to replenish your water supply, reducing reliance on municipal water or groundwater such as simply installing a water butt and using the harvested water to use on the garden (as a first step).
  • Grey Water Recycling: Greywater, the relatively clean wastewater such as water from baths, sinks, washing machines, swimming pools and other kitchen appliances, can be reused for purposes like flushing toilets or watering gardens, thus conserving potable water.
  • Treat and Reuse Wastewater: Advanced treatment processes can allow for the reuse of even more wastewater, although this might be more relevant for businesses or municipalities than for individual households.
  • Promote Healthy Ecosystems: Healthy wetlands and forests naturally regulate water supplies and purify water. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems can be an important part of achieving water neutrality.
  • Offsetting: In some cases, it might be possible to offset water use by contributing to projects that save or clean water elsewhere.
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You need to remember, that achieving water neutrality is not only about reducing water use, but also about thinking holistically about how water is used, cleaned, and replenished. It involves making sure that water use is sustainable, and that we’re not depleting or contaminating water resources faster than they can be replenished.

How Water Neutrality Can Be Improved Using a Septic Tank

Septic systems, when properly designed, installed, and maintained, can contribute to water neutrality. A well-functioning septic tank treats wastewater from the home and returns it to the groundwater system, making it a critical part of the water cycle in areas that are not served by municipal sewer systems.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Wastewater Treatment: In a septic system, wastewater from the home enters the septic tank, where solids settle to the bottom, and fats and oils float to the top. The remaining liquid wastewater then flows into the drain field, where it percolates through the soil. The soil acts as a natural filter, removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients before the water reenters the groundwater system.
  2. Water Recycling: By returning treated wastewater to the groundwater system, septic systems effectively recycle water locally. This contrasts with traditional sewer systems, where wastewater is often treated and then discharged into rivers or the ocean, which can be far from where the water was originally used.

However, there are several important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Proper Maintenance: Septic systems need to be properly maintained to function correctly. This typically involves pumping out the septic tank every 3-5 years to remove the buildup of solids. Without proper maintenance, septic systems can fail, leading to the contamination of local groundwater supplies.
  • Design Considerations: Septic systems need to be carefully designed and located to protect local water resources. For example, they should be located a safe distance from wells to prevent the contamination of drinking water. They also need to be designed to handle the amount of wastewater being produced by the home.
  • Efficient Water Use: High water use can overload a septic system. Therefore, water-saving measures are particularly important for homes with septic systems. For example, using water-efficient appliances and fixtures can reduce the amount of wastewater entering the system, helping to ensure it operates efficiently.
  • Consideration of Local Conditions: The ability of the soil to treat wastewater varies depending on local conditions. Therefore, the local soil conditions need to be taken into account when designing a septic system.

By correctly using and maintaining a septic system, homeowners can contribute to water neutrality, effectively recycling their wastewater locally and protecting local water resources helping the environment in the process.

The Impact on Planning Applications

water neutrality and the impact on planning permissions

When submitting a planning application, one crucial aspect that needs to be considered is water neutrality. Planning authorities, often require applicants to include a Water Neutrality Statement to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable water management.

This statement examines the project’s water consumption patterns and identifies strategies like water efficiency measures and recycling systems to minimize the development’s impact on water resources.

Achieving water neutrality is vital for sustainable development and reducing pressure on water supplies. Failure to meet water neutrality requirements may result in delays or denial of planning permission until a feasible strategy is proposed.

This ensures that new developments prioritize water conservation and do not exacerbate water stress in the local area.

By integrating water neutrality into the planning process, authorities can ensure the responsible use of water resources and safeguard future drinking water supplies. You should also check the stance of your relevant authority too as it can differ from county to county.

Why are Planning Applications Relevant to Water Neutrality?

Planning applications play a crucial role in achieving water neutrality, making them highly relevant to this concept. Developers who fail to consider water neutrality in their planning process may face delays in obtaining planning permission.

This is because planning authorities, such as Chichester District Council and Horsham District Council, now prioritize sustainable development that minimizes negative impacts on the environment, including water resources.

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To ensure a smooth planning permission process, developers should proactively communicate with landowners early on.

This allows them to discuss potential water offsets and potentially reach contractual agreements.

By involving landowners, developers can access information regarding water availability, usage, and any existing water resource management systems.

Including plans for achieving water neutrality in planning applications is crucial. Planning authorities, in collaboration with organizations like Natural England and Southern Water, carefully evaluate the proposed development’s impact on water resources.

By demonstrating a commitment to water neutrality through the inclusion of comprehensive water reduction measures, greywater recycling systems, and water reuse systems, developers are more likely to receive planning permission.

Planning applications are highly relevant to water neutrality as they ensure developers consider and address water sustainability in their projects.

By including plans for achieving water neutrality, developers can navigate the planning process more smoothly and contribute to the long-term conservation of water resources.

The Need for Water Efficiency Measures in New Residential Developments

Water efficiency measures in new developments are vital to address the increasing demand for water and to achieve water neutrality. By implementing these measures, water consumption can be significantly reduced, conserving this precious resource.

One way to achieve water efficiency is through the use of efficient fixtures and fittings. Low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads can substantially decrease water usage without compromising performance. These devices ensure that only the necessary amount of water is used, limiting wastage.

Another effective measure is the installation of greywater recycling systems. These systems collect and treat wastewater from sources such as sinks, showers, and washing machines, making them suitable for non-potable uses like toilet flushing or irrigation. By reusing greywater, the demand for freshwater is reduced, easing the pressure on water resources.

Rainwater harvesting units are also an excellent water-saving solution for new developments. These systems collect rainwater from rooftops and store it for later use in non-potable applications. By utilizing rainwater for activities like watering gardens or cleaning, the reliance on public water supplies is reduced, contributing to water neutrality.

Moreover, the concept of off-setting plays a crucial role in achieving water neutrality. Off-setting involves reducing water consumption in one area and compensating for it in another. For example, if a development increases water demand in a specific region, water off-setting measures could be implemented elsewhere to balance the usage and minimize the overall impact on water resources.

Water efficiency measures in new developments are essential to reduce water consumption, conserve resources, and achieve water neutrality. The adoption of efficient fixtures, greywater recycling systems, rainwater harvesting units, and the implementation of off-setting strategies collectively contribute to sustainable water management.

How Can You Achieve Water Efficiency?

Water efficiency is essential for sustainable water management and ensuring the availability of clean water resources for future generations. There are several key strategies and methods that can be employed to achieve water efficiency.

One important aspect is reducing water usage through leak detection and repair. Even small leaks can waste significant amounts of water over time, so promptly identifying and fixing leaks is crucial. Additionally, implementing small changes in our daily activities, such as filling a bowl when washing up instead of running the tap continuously or turning off the tap while brushing teeth can go a long way in conserving water.

Another effective approach to water efficiency is the installation of water-saving devices in homes and businesses. These devices include low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators that restrict water flow, reducing consumption without sacrificing performance.

Tap inserts can also be installed to regulate the water flow and minimize wastage. For larger-scale water-saving solutions, infrastructure like greywater recycling systems and rainwater harvesting units can be implemented. Greywater recycling systems collect and treat wastewater for non-potable uses, while rainwater harvesting units collect rainwater for activities such as irrigation or cleaning.

Achieving water efficiency requires a combination of strategies, including reducing water usage through leak detection and making small changes in our daily habits. Furthermore, installing water-saving devices and implementing larger-scale infrastructure like greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting units can significantly contribute to water conservation efforts. By adopting these measures, we can ensure the sustainable and efficient use of our precious water resources.

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Primarily, the focus is placed upon the developers now being able to demonstrate a deliverable water neutrality plan to their proposals in a lot of cases.

What is a Water Neutrality Statement?

A Water Neutrality Statement is a crucial component in the planning application process, particularly in the context of water neutrality and future planning decisions.

It serves as a strategic document outlining measures to achieve water neutrality within a development.

The main purpose of a Water Neutrality Statement is to minimize water demand and, if necessary, offset any remaining demand through sustainable water management practices.

By analyzing water consumption patterns, the statement identifies water efficiency measures, water recycling systems, and other strategies that can be implemented to reduce the project’s impact on water resources.

In order to ensure sustainable development and mitigate the pressure on water resources, planning authorities require applicants to submit a Water Neutrality Statement.

This requirement underscores the importance of water neutrality within the planning process.

If water neutrality cannot be achieved within a development, the consequences can be significant. Planning permission may be denied or delayed until a feasible water neutrality strategy is proposed.

This ensures that new developments minimize their impact on the local water supply and do not exacerbate water stress in the area.

A Water Neutrality Statement is a key element in planning applications, outlining a strategy for achieving water neutrality and minimizing water demand. Its purpose is to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of water resources within a development.

Natural England’s Role in Supporting the Concept of Water Neutrality

natural england

Natural England plays a vital role in supporting the concept of water neutrality, the natural environment in general and water extraction by providing guidance and advice to businesses and planning authorities.

Natural England, as an authority on water resources, assists businesses in understanding the significance of water conservation and provides strategies to achieve water neutrality. For property developers, this implies that the water demand should remain unchanged before and after a new build.

They work closely with planning authorities to ensure that water neutrality requirements are met in planning applications.

By encouraging the implementation of water efficiency measures and promoting the use of sustainable water sources such as rainwater harvesting, Natural England helps businesses reduce their water consumption and minimize their impact on water resources.

Through their expertise and support, Natural England plays a crucial role in promoting the adoption of water neutrality measures across various industries and sectors.

For example, research conducted by the organisation has clearly shown that water abstraction for drinking water supplies has a negative impact on wildlife in some areas of the country. The same can be said for groundwater abstraction in other areas too.  True water benefits delivered back to communities will differ from area to area.

The LGA (Local Government Association) has even conducted research and commissioned a report named ‘Nutrient and water neutrality: The impact of environmental protections on housing supply‘ which offers valuable information on the scale of the problem and the importance of planning moratoriums in regard to water neutrality.

What is Natural England?

Natural England is an organization that plays a significant role in promoting the sustainable use of resources in local development plans. With a specific focus on water resources, Natural England provides expertise and guidance on water quality and water neutrality measures.

As part of its commitment to sustainable development, Natural England supports local planning authorities in incorporating strategies and policies to ensure the responsible use and management of water resources. This includes the consideration of water quality in planning applications and the implementation of water efficiency measures.

Water neutrality is a concept that Natural England emphasizes in its guidance. This involves ensuring that any increase in water demand as a result of development is offset by measures to reduce water usage or by increasing water availability through methods such as water recycling or extraction. By prioritizing water neutrality, Natural England aims to address the pressure on water resources and maintain the integrity of the water cycle.

Through its expertise and guidance, Natural England plays an essential role in working with planning authorities and developers to promote sustainable practices and protect local water resources. By incorporating water quality and water neutrality measures into local development plans, Natural England contributes to the responsible and efficient use of water in our communities.

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Natural England’s Role in Promoting Sustainable Use of Resources in Local Development Plans

Natural England plays a crucial role in promoting the sustainable use of resources in local development plans, including their expertise in water resources and advising on water reuse systems. As the authority on water resources, Natural England provides guidance and support to local planning authorities in incorporating strategies and policies that ensure responsible management of water resources.

One significant aspect of Natural England’s role is advising on water reuse systems. They assist in implementing water recycling and extraction methods, which help increase water availability and reduce pressure on water resources. By promoting the use of these systems, Natural England aims to ensure that any increase in water demand as a result of development is offset.

In addition to advising on water reuse systems, Natural England also focuses on improving water quality. They ensure that water quality is a crucial consideration in planning applications. By incorporating measures to address water quality issues, Natural England helps maintain the integrity of the water cycle and protect aquatic ecosystems.

Overall, Natural England’s expertise in water resources and its emphasis on water reuse systems and water quality make them invaluable in assisting local planning authorities in incorporating sustainable water management practices into their development plans. This means that, for example, local water levels in rivers, streams and even aquifers will not be impacted by housing developments which take the issue seriously.

Through their efforts, they contribute to mitigating the impacts of development on water resources and promoting a more sustainable and responsible approach to water usage.

What is the Future of Water Neutrality?

the future of water neutrality

Water neutrality is a concept that aims to balance and offset the water consumption of new developments by implementing innovative water efficiency measures and adopting sustainable water management practices.

As we look to the future, the advancements in technology and the growing awareness of water scarcity are expected to drive the widespread adoption of water neutrality strategies which, hopefully, would reduce any chance of a climate emergency too.

One area where significant developments can be seen is in the implementation of water efficiency measures. With advancements in plumbing fixtures, irrigation systems, and building design, it is now possible to dramatically reduce water consumption without sacrificing comfort or functionality.

The use of greywater recycling systems, rainwater harvesting, and water-efficient appliances can contribute significantly to water neutrality goals.

Planning authorities, including Natural England, are expected to play a crucial role in promoting and enforcing water neutrality strategies in new developments. Through the integration of water neutrality requirements into planning permissions, authorities can ensure that water-efficient practices are incorporated from the initial stages of a project.

Natural England, as an authority on water resources, can provide guidance and expert advice to developers, helping them navigate the challenges and opportunities of achieving water neutrality.

However, challenges do exist in the journey towards water neutrality. Balancing the increasing water demand with limited water resources is a significant challenge, especially in areas already experiencing water stress. Additionally, the cost and complexity of implementing and maintaining water efficiency measures can pose barriers to adoption.

Nevertheless, the future of water neutrality presents opportunities. By reducing water usage and increasing efficiency, we can alleviate pressure on water resources, protect ecosystems, and ensure sustainable access to clean water for future generations. Collaboration between planning authorities, water companies, and developers will be essential in driving this transition towards a water-neutral future. The challenges are only set to increase as the world begins to take stock of the impact of climate change towards a natural path of sustainable growth and management of water supplies.


In summary:

  • Water neutrality aims to balance water consumption with conservation efforts to achieve a neutral impact on water resources.
  • It involves implementing strategies such as water recycling and rainwater harvesting to reduce water usage and increase efficiency.
  • Water neutrality has numerous benefits, including sustainable water management, preservation of ecosystems, improved health outcomes, economic benefits, promotion of innovation, and social equity.

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Updated: July 14, 2023

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Septic TanksWater Neutrality: Everything You Need to Know