Bby in sinkHow do you encourage customers to save water in a part of the North West where it often rains, and lakes are common?

That’s the challenge we’ve taken on this year in West Cumbria.

Unlike the rest of the region, which is served by a vast network of interconnected pipes, the local West Cumbrian population relies on water sources close to home, including Ennerdale Water, a naturally-occurring lake which plays host to protected wildlife.

To keep local wildlife wet and wonderful, we need to reduce the amount of water we take from the lake, and ultimately, cease abstraction entirely.

Consultation has already begun on a long-term solution to the area’s water supply needs. In the meantime, we need to encourage customers to do their bit, by saving water around the home and garden.

In early spring 2014, we launched an awareness raising campaign in the area called Watertight. The campaign uses a combination of media relations, advertising on local radio, customer events, and partnership building to promote our water efficiency message, and provide customers with some easy to follow tips.

Given Cumbria’s reputation for rain, and its proliferation of lakes, our campaign messages could be perceived as counter-intuitive!

However, by explaining the environmental situation, and also the fact that saving water is good for the bank balance (it can help reduce energy bills, as well as water bills) we are starting to make headway. We do, however, recognise that widespread change won’t be achieved overnight, and that our messages need to be continually reinforced.

In just four months, we have:

  • Given away thousands of water saving devices, at events across the area.
  • Reached 159,000 radio listeners each morning with our messages, by sponsoring the local breakfast show.
  • Engaged with more than 100 grass roots organisations, from local community groups to environmental charities.
  • Teamed up with local newspapers for competitions and news stories.

Plans for the future include exploring links with social housing providers (30 per cent of West Cumbria’s housing stock is social housing), and looking for opportunities for our colleagues to promote water efficiency during their day-to-day interactions with customers on the doorstep.

If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews