Case study: EU Life+ water and energy project


This EU Life+ RENEW water and energy project promoted the water-energy links and benefits to householders in the UK and tested how best to communicate this innovative message. Our initial research confirmed that consumer understanding of the impact of water and especially hot water use is low. At the onset of the project, only 8% of householders surveyed in our pilot areas made the link between saving water and saving energy when unprompted, demonstrating the need to raise awareness in this new area.

The Energy Saving Trust and Waterwise launched an enhanced water and energy advice service in Cardiff, London and Edinburgh between January 2009 and April 2011. Funded by contributions from the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community, Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Scottish Government, these pilots were the first of their kind in Europe.


Project aims

Our approach

Evaluating the project

Project reports

Project activities

This video overview of the project includes interviews with Energy Saving Trust CEO Philip Sellwood, Jacob Tompkins, Waterwise MD and Paul Hope, Head of water resources at Ofwat. You can also see the perspective from householders who received in-home tailored advice and those that delivered advice for the project: 


Which are you – A or B? watch our video on water and energy saving in the home:



On average, each person in the UK currently uses 150 litres of water per day - much of which is wasted. Six per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK come from water use, with nearly 90 per cent of this coming from water use in the home. If every UK home reduced their hot water use by just 5%, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking nearly 600,000 cars off the roads.

In the UK, approximately 30 per cent of an average home’s energy bills can be attributed to heating and using hot water – or around £200 (€220) per year. This water use contributes on average to around a quarter of household carbon emissions. When taking into account energy used to heat water there are significant energy, water and financial savings to be made by only using the water we need.


Project aims  

The aim of this project was to highlight the link between water and energy to householders, and promote the benefits of adopting water and energy-efficient behaviour. At the same time we tested the effectiveness of different communication and marketing approaches

The project explored the feasibility and success of integrating water efficiency messaging into the communication methods commonly used by energy efficiency or household engagement initiatives. These methods included;

  • phone calls (inbound and outbound calls)
  • direct mailing
  • events (in shopping centres and at festivals)
  • home visits.

Project objectives  

  1. To pilot an innovative approach to providing environmental advice and raising consumer awareness.
  2. To actively investigate the viability of combining water saving and sustainable energy advice by identifying synergies/conflicts and carbon saving links between energy and water.
  3. To analyse geopolitical differences in three pilot areas - Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.
  4. To influence consumer behaviour to reduce their carbon emissions, preserve natural resources and move towards a water saving culture with a target of 22,500 consumers advised.
  5. To disseminate the findings of this innovative project by sharing pilot findings with other EU states to replicate pilot elsewhere

Our approach  


Operational approach

The project compared three different urban centres within the UK. Over 25,000 people received water efficiency advice in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and surveys were used to evaluate the impact of the message and method of delivery in these areas. The Energy Saving Trust used their own advice centres already delivering energy efficiency advice and customer engagement programmes in these areas, who were then set targets to deliver water efficiency advice to both existing and new customers.


Marketing approach  

Our market research into the impact of different messages indicated that financial savings would have the biggest impact. Therefore, our key proposition became: ‘Heating water costs you money’ and was used in all three pilot areas. Although there were differences between the pilot areas, such as the fact that there is no separate water bill in Scotland (rather they are charged for water use via council taxes), this was still found to be the most effective marketing strapline. Each pilot area used the same marketing materials, but each chose ways to communicate to best suit local requirements and opportunities.


Evaluating the project  

An initial baseline survey established that across the three areas, only 8 per cent of people made the link between their water use and their energy bills when unprompted. Using this baseline, the project’s evaluation was undertaken in four ‘waves’, each measuring the effectiveness of the advice against the baseline. It also investigated the recall of advice given and any water efficiency action taken, whether behaviour change or water device installation

  • Waves 1-3 analysed the phone calls, mailings and events that were predominantly used as engagement methods during this period.
  • Wave 4 tested the more intensive method of in-home visits, some of which explored a combined behaviour change and device installation approach.


It is estimated that nearly 18,000 water saving measures have been achieved as a result of this project. These are a combination of both water saving device and behavioural measures. Overall, the estimated impact of this project for all 25,000 people advised through the pilots on an ongoing annual basis is:

  • 523 tonnes of CO2 from homes per year
  • 176,000 cubic metres of water from homes per year
  • £34,000 on fuel bills for householders
  • £101,000 on water bills for householders (not including those in Scotland)

Project recommendations

From the project’s key findings and lessons learnt from the people delivering it, there are a number of project specific and wider water and energy sector recommendations. To increase the levels of water and energy saving awareness, and to increase long-term behavioural change, the project’s recommendations are:

  • Go beyond communicating top-tips when developing messages and advice.
  • Focus on in-depth advice, rather than quantity of contacts made.
  • Deliver personalised advice, designed to suit your audience.
  • Focus on delivering in-home advice, rather than through phone calls, mail and events.
  • Use a partnership approach and integrate with other on-ground programmes.
  • Integrate in-depth advice and behavioural change efforts with combined water and energy efficiency initiatives.

Project reports  

Read the comprehensive EU Life+ project report (PDF, 2.2Mb)


Final evaluation

With the completion of all communication activities in April 2011 the final surveys were undertaken and all evaluation activity compiled into a final report which can be read here:

Download the Final Evaluation Report for the entire project - October 2011


Interim evaluation

Surveys conducted in January to March 2010 of customers advised demonstrated that people being advised were broadly unaware of the issues relating to water efficiency and the energy carbon implications, but are really receptive to this innovative message. The majority engaged with this advice seemed to be largely unaware of the water-energy connection.

The first wave of our evaluation suggested that there was a need to move beyond top tips and WECs as alone they cannot adequately educate people about the water-energy connection. The advice needed to educate as to why people need to save water, with a focus on raising of the water-energy connection and going forward our pilot activities sought to address this.

Downland the Interim Evaluation Summary of the first wave of our evaluation. (PDF, 131Kb)


Conflicts and synergies report

The first of our Life+ project reports looked into the conflicts and synergies in domestic water and energy saving advice. The report identified the main areas of focus for the RENEW project as well as the latest customer insight, issues and local variances which will determine the delivery approach.

Read the Conflicts and synergies report.


Project activities  


Stakeholder dissemination

Throughout the year 2011, the findings of the project were shared to ensure the opportunity for wider replication in the UK as well as in the EU.

We hosted a free stakeholder conference to disseminate the project findings on 22nd September 2011 in Brussels. Speakers included:

  • Philip Sellwood, Energy Saving Trust CEO
  • Jacob Tompkins, Waterwise MD
  • Andrew Tucker, Energy Saving Trust Water Strategy Manager
  • Henriette Faergemann, European Commission, DG ENV, Protection of Water Environment, Water scarcity & droughts team
  • Oliver Musgrave, Water Efficiency Advisor, Home Energy Scotland South East
  • Nick Lomax, Bid and Development Manager, Climate Energy

Watch the recording of the livestream of the EU Life+ Stakeholder dissemination event.

The project was also presented in Paris at a workshop from the European Energy Network (EnR) on 'Energy Policy Implementation at a Local and Regional Level' in February 2011. The presentation 'Life+ RENEW project' can be found on their homepage. An overview of the project including relevant messages for EU politicians was published in March 2011 in the Parliament Magazine, which is widely recognised and read by MEPs offering balanced, objective and informative coverage on politics. The article 'Combining Water and Energy Efficiency' can be found on page 73 of the March 2011 issue.

At the ECEEE summer study, the project was presented to an audience of 300 people, including researchers, NGO’s, policymakers, local authorities, energy efficiency companies and other interested professionals. The aim of ECEEE was to provide all the participants with evidence-based knowledge and the most recent insights in energy efficiency thinking and practices. The Life+ RENEW project was presented in the form of an interactive poster and won three out of the eight prizes. The abstract of our paper providing a comprehensive summary of the project can be found on the ECEEE homepage under panel 8 (number 8-071).


Fact-finding mission to Zaragoza, Spain

Frances Galvanoni and Gill Warwick from the Energy Saving Trust, and Gareth Walker from Waterwise visited the city of Zaragoza in Spain to network and exchange information with the only previous Life funded project on water efficiency. The Zaragoza project successfully reduced household water consumption in Zaragoza by over 1 million litres in one year, through encouraging the installation of water saving technologies and by changing behaviour. Read their report on the Zaragoza trip.


Supporting partners

Waterwise will be responsible for developing the water component of the advice, as well as identifying the synergies and trade offs between water and energy advice in domestic use and a means to gauge net impacts of both. They will also be responsible for organising and carrying out training workshops in each of the pilot areas.



This project has been funded with a contribution from the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community. LIFE is the EU's financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 2,750 projects, contributing approximately £1.35 billion to the protection of the environment. Find out more about Life+

In addition, the Department of Energy and Climate Change in England and the Scottish Government have contributed towards the delivery of this project.


Co-ordinating beneficiary

Andrew Tucker, Water Strategy Manager, Energy Saving Trust:

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