Our vision

Water companies have unveiled a ground-breaking plan to deliver a net zero water supply for customers by 2030 in the world’s first sector-wide commitment of its kind.

We’ve estimated we could save the emission of 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by reaching net zero two decades ahead of the UK Government’s legally binding target of 2050.

The challenge

Water companies are not like other businesses. We provide a vital public service hinged on major infrastructure and yet we’re also a large landowner and custodian of the natural environment.

Moving and treating water is an energy intensive process leading to millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

28m

Properties served

2.4m

tonnes of CO2e
Annual emissions

569K

Kilometres of sewage pipe

7k

Treatment sites

142

litres/person
Average daily consumption

2030 imagined

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap has been developed using over a decade’s worth of detailed data and provides water companies with a framework on which to develop and cost their own net zero action plans.

Expert analysis and consultation with stakeholders confirm there is no single solution that achieves net zero on its own so a broad combination of approaches and collaboration between water companies, policymakers and the supply chain will be needed.

2030 imagined

By 2030 we aim to see:

Low emissions vehicles

100% of fleet passenger vehicles are electrified and 80% of commercial vehicles (LGVs and HGVs) converted to alternative fuels to cut carbon and air pollution.

Water and energy saving

New strategies to tackle leakage and help customers save water, alongside smarter and more efficient networks and catchments.

Process emissions

Targeting a reduction of up to 60% from our 2018-19 baseline by 2030, with monitoring of emissions to inform research and detailed pathways ahead of PR24.

Renewable power

Up to 3GW of new solar and wind power coupled with energy efficiency measures and suitable storage to provide up to 80% of sector demand, relieve pressure on grid generators, and minimise the need for offsets.

Green gas

Biomethane from sewage waste is injected into the grid to heat up to 150,000 homes, use in hard to decarbonise sectors, or to generate low-carbon power when generation from renewables is low.

But even those highly challenging actions won’t be enough to reach net zero, and our plans also include:

Restoring native habitats

20,000 hectares of owned peatland and grassland are restored and 11 million new trees are planted. These nature-based measures will help achieve a just transition by reducing demand on treatment, providing an important sink for the hard to abate activities like process emissions, restoring habitats, and reducing flood risk.

Targeting innovation

Process emissions are highly uncertain and tackling them quickly is a significant global challenge. We don’t have all the answers yet and finding efficient retrofit solutions is a big priority for our innovation strategy.

Offsetting residual emissions

Even in the most ambitious of our pathways, achieving net zero will include purchasing suitable offsets to counter emissions that cannot be tackled directly by 2030. The development of a robust UK market for businesses to procure carbon offsets will be a key part in helping the sector manage any emissions that cannot yet be eliminated.

Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan

Our plan sets out six commitments alongside four recommendations for others. Together, they create accountability, reduce the costs and risks of transition, and create new benefits like restored habitats.

Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan
Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan

Our Routemap launch

On 12th November, we launched the Net Zero 2030 Routemap to an audience of over 300 stakeholders in a live broadcast. Hosted by Alastair Stewart, the event brought together 14 senior decision-makers, environmental and policy experts to explore the steps that will need to be taken to deliver the transition to net zero while supporting a green, resilient recovery from Covid-19.

2030 imagined
Powering efficiency
Harnessing natural solutions

Net Zero in action

What other people say

We know we can’t do this on our own so we’ve been talking to a variety of
stakeholders who share our ambition for a cleaner, greener future.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:

“The ambitious plans set out by water companies are in the vanguard of climate action. The pursuit of low carbon outcomes, combined with the recovery of the natural environment, set a powerful example of the kind of integrated solutions we need to adopt in rising to the twin challenges of global heating and Nature decline”.

Darren Moorcroft, CEO of the Woodland Trust, said:

“Stepping up to becoming net zero by 2030 is a big challenge for one of the most energy-demanding services that society demands from our natural environment. In using nature-based solutions, the water industry will demonstrate not only how it will meet that #NetZero challenge, but deliver multiple additional benefits for all users of this precious natural resource.”

Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, said:

“Our waterways are the lifeblood of our environment and effective water supply is essential for human health. We think of our rivers, canals, lakes and wetlands and the land that surrounds our reservoirs as beautiful landscape features but they are also the vital ecosystem that supplies our clean drinking water, provides a home for our precious wildlife and, in good condition, can help tackle the climate crisis by storing huge amounts of carbon. It is crucial for our future and in order to deliver on its own commitments that the government gives the water sector the support it needs to decarbonise and help reverse nature’s decline. With 15% of UK species at threat of extinction, the nature crisis must be tackled with the same urgency as the climate crisis.”

Nigel Topping, UK High-level Climate Champion for COP26, said:

“Setting ambitious goals is a crucial part of how we take successful climate action, and Water UK is proving this with the target to reach net zero two decades ahead of the Paris Agreement. By taking these steps as an industry towards decarbonisation, they will accelerate the pace of the Race to Zero within the water sector and beyond.”

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap

Water companies will use the Routemap to build their own detailed net zero action plans, taking account of the plans of key regional stakeholders such as their local electricity distribution network operator, local authorities, and environmental groups.

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap