Senior Consultant in Water at WSP

Anna Dahlman-Petri

The UK has some of the highest quality tap water in the world, so it strikes me that this is something that should be addressed by utilities. In doing so, they could draw on the environmental aspects of it: according to data from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology  , the transport of bottled water gives rise to 1,000 times the carbon emissions of the same amount of tap water."


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The way we use water needs to change

Value of Water



In as little as 20 years, in some parts of the UK demand water will start to outstrip supply – thanks to population growth and climate change.

In the UK we use on average 143 litres of water per person a day. In response to concerns over a looming imbalance of supply and demand, the Government has set a target of 110 litres per person per day by 2050.

Our new research brings together data on consumer attitudes about water consumption with industry sector insights to understand how we can motivate people to change their water consumption habits.

Asset Management Director, Northumbrian Water Group

Tamsin Lishman

“We're using… nudge and engagement techniques with our customers to reduce sewer flooding and wastewater flooding – and particularly floods that are caused by people putting wet wipes down the toilet. There's a local social media campaign, and we’ve given people bins for their bathrooms – especially in areas that have had repeat events. We’ve used that to build awareness and get people to change their habits...

Technical Director - Water, WSP

Martin Osborne

This transition will require innovation across all water company activities. The challenge is that step-changes in practice have been hard to develop. The regulatory process has disincentivised innovation to drive efficiencies, future savings have been given back to customers rather than retained by the companies as a reward. Innovative ideas have been widespread, but necessarily not converted into large-scale change. 

But, with an improved innovation culture, the water industry could go even further and use their close engagement with customers to help drive all of society towards net zero.”

believe that people should be incentivised to use less water during periods of peak consumption


We found that there was strong support in the UK for being charged according to actual water usage (from almost three-quarters of respondents). Respondents in England and Wales, and those with water meters, show particular enthusiasm. This is encouraging given the resistance to metering that appeared to exist 10-15 years ago. The idea of incentivising lower use of water during peak hours could also present an opportunity.

Who should foot the bill?

Managing Director

Nicci Russell

"It's really positive if customers acknowledge the need for management around peaks. There are also daily peaks to consider, and all sorts of technology that people can use to spread out water use – for example, setting the washing machine to start up in the middle of the night – without the need for behavioural change, which is often the harder part.



The UK saw a 44% increase in consumption of bottled water between 2012 and 2017, to 2.8 billion litres  , and a spike to 3.4 billion litres in 2019 due to record summer heat  . However, awareness about the negative impact of plastic is growing, and UK respondents said they are willing to pay up if it is for a good cause.

Addressing the disconnect on bottled vs tap water

agreed with the idea that the government should introduce an environmental levy on bottled water, used to reinvest in improving the quality of our water supply


said they would stop drinking bottled water if their tap water was of better quality


Browse our survey results in full


Knowing how much water I use compared with other households


Water scarcity/ drought


To avoid being charged a premium for water use above a daily limit


To do something good for the environment


To keep water bills low


To be rewarded for using less water

Which of the following would motivate you to use less water?




Overuse by industry and agriculture


Population growth





Respondents reporting that they feel concerned about the following threats

Water Strategy
Director, WSP

Mike Woolgar

"We can learn a lot from locations more used to dealing with drought and water scarcity. In Orange County in California, during periods of drought, residents would receive a monthly bill telling them how much water they’d used. It would also tell them where they sat relative to other households and how much their current behaviour and water use would impact their bill next month. And people moderated behaviour quite markedly – because the issue is made more immediate and it appeals to their social conscience.

The water industry has set the challenging goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – way ahead of the rest of the economy – using a combination of reducing emissions and mitigation measures such as tree planting.

Innovation to drive net zero

When it comes to water conservation, the sector needs to be mindful that our current pricing structure isn’t as effective as it could be in motivating change. Many people are as motivated by doing something good for the environment. However, our results also showed that respondents with water meters were more likely to be aware of the need to use less water to keep their bills low to protect the future.

Nudging behaviour

Nearly half of UK residents are worried about the security of their water supply diminishing in the future (48%). They worry most about the impact of pollution and floods. And people say they are willing to pay more to secure their supply against future threat.

Water security worries

Simon Cocks

Independent Chair,
Water Resources in the South East (WRSE)

Our water infrastructure assets are getting older, and the environment they have to cope with is getting riskier because of extreme weather events – both flood and drought. Climate change is clearly affecting our weather patterns, and this will require us to take action to ensure continuously available resources for future generations…"

Developing the frameworks to gather the evidence to retrofit and enable future business cases


Working with private sector clients to embed Future Mobility thinking in new developments to create sustainable, inspiring places


Helping clients to bid for and secure innovation funds to pilot, prove and sustain new solutions


Bringing uncertain concepts into reality


Developing innovative business cases, using new methodologies to demonstrate the potential benefits of Future Mobility and to secure funding streams


Developing the specific policies and supporting plans to focus priorities and funding


Developing strategies for local and regional government to enable the conditions for Future Mobility to flourish


Producing briefings, white papers and other publications to contribute to and shape the agenda


Undertaking evidence-based research, scenario, trend and trajectory analysis in the mobility sector including deep-dives into the influences and externalities


Our Services

Let's create change

Why, when and how we need to move is changing?

Our Future Mobility Experts

Changing with society

Traditional forms of travel are facing increasing competition from new disruptive services that reimagine relationships with customers. But we ignore fundamental human needs, desires and behaviours at our peril, particularly for those that are often forgotten in our decision making.

We must balance the hopes of a younger generation that favours access over ownership with the needs of an economically active ageing population. And break down barriers that reduce access to those with disabilities, and those excluded by society by their economic status.

WSP’s Future Mobility team is answering some of these big questions now, by changing perceptions and putting people first. We are recognised experts with deep insights into the changes that are impacting how, when and where we access life’s essential activities. We help our clients’ future-proof their infrastructure, design for people and capitalise upon the momentum for change. 

Together let’s think differently. Let’s create change.

Places are unique

Every region, city, town, community or site has a different set of needs, challenges and potential opportunities. Just because one solution works in one location it will not necessarily work in another.

At WSP we have long taken an evidential approach to our work to understand the trends influencing transport. We focus on desirable outcomes, not the technology. Most importantly we are human and place-centric. Future Mobility must focus on people, the day to day activities they undertake and the places they visit.

The promise of easier, safer, cheaper travel enabled by technology, balanced against a risk of more vehicles, congestion, and impacts on space. The promise of equitable, on-demand, digitally-enabled transport services which conflict with a largely deregulated landscape. Overriding all of this, the opportunity and urgent need to tackle the climate emergency. Future Mobility and climate change go hand in hand.

How we work, learn, play, shop and stay healthy has radically shifted. These already impact the shape and form of our workplaces, our high streets and communities. If we focus on user pain points in our day-to-day travel experiences what might our designs and services, look like? Explore how Future Mobility impacts your sector:

There is an emerging danger in assuming that Future Mobility means that a new norm will be established – changing everything in similar ways, everywhere – this will not be true. We must treat urban, peri-urban and rural areas with the unique consideration they deserve.

Future mobility is a complex agenda

Change Re/action

Let's think differently

Let's change 
the way we think

Let's think differently

Let's think differently