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Project description

Name of the case study
Water savings in Copenhagen

Description of context
Water supply is regulated and influenced by a number of laws; the Act on water supply (national), Region plans (regional), Municipal plans (municipal). The strategy of the water supply and aims for sustainable water management is described in the Municipality’s “Water Supply Plan”. The water saving campaign has also been indirectly influenced by other regulation, especially the first “Action Plan on Nutrient Pollution of the Danish Aquatic Environment” from 1987, that caused the water prices to rise drastically (app. 300% from 1987 to 1992), as the costs for an improved sewage treatment were put on the water price. In Denmark, 99% of the water supply consists of groundwater.

Description of project - background
In 1989 the water supplier Copenhagen Water (CW) started a water saving campaign. The water saving campaign came as a part of pressure for sustainable management, from different sides: groundwater resources are limited and still shrinking due to pollution (primarily pesticides and fertilisers). The effects from water extraction on nature are very visible and have direct consequences for other actors such as "users" of nature, e.g. farmers, fishers, citizens etc.. There is an annual extraction of 62 mill. m3 groundwater from the hinterlands (counties and municipalities surrounding Copenhagen). Although app. 2/3 of this water is used as supply to other municipalities, it is often regarded as Copenhagen’s water consumption, and the environmental impact on local nature is therefore regarded mainly as a result of the water consumption in Copenhagen. Water consumption in Copenhagen, and Denmark, has always been restricted to local (regional) resources, as water import has been politically unwanted, so has purification of polluted water.

A main part of the campaign was directed towards consumers, especially households who accounts for app. 2/3 of all water consumption in Copenhagen. Using the average water consumption (in litres/person/day) in Copenhagen as an indicator and as a way of making consumers aware of their own consumption, was a central part of the campaign. The campaign consisted of a number of initiatives, including:

Campaigns and information
Making the users aware of their consumption was created through campaigns, consisting of newspaper ads, streamers on busses and taxis, TV-spots, leaflets send to households, exhibitions etc. As an example, a large "Water-O-Meter" was established outside Copenhagen Water’s headquarter, showing the present consumption of water in households, and the future goal for the consumption.

Copenhagen Water offered consultation service to housing associations, industries, institutions and others, on how to reduce the water consumption, technical and behavioural. By surveying the water consumption in single estates, CW were also able to seek out blocks or districts where the consumption was significant larger than the average, and discuss it with owners and users, giving them advices on how to reduce consumption.

Special efforts were directed towards schoolchildren, through campaigns and teaching on water and water savings. This later developed into an independent education-place and exhibition, where children can go on excursion (Vandværk-stedet).

Pilot projects on water savings and urban ecology Pilot projects were conducted in selected buildings, where several different possibilities of reducing water consumption was explored, including leakage control, information, individual water meters etc. This revealed large potentials, as the consumption was often reduced by 25-40% in such cases. Another recent initiative has been to develop a PC-program for estimating the households average water consumption, so that households who haven’t got individual meter can get an idea about how much they consume compared to the average of the city. This will placed on CE ‘s web-site. CW has also been involved in a number of projects on urban ecology, typically projects that tested methods for alternative water management, including collection and use of storm water (for toilets and washing machines), re-use of grey wastewater, local percolation of rainwater etc. However, their possibilities for promoting such projects have been limited.

Co-operation with intermediaries
Another type of initiatives included co-operation with "intermediaries", i.e. certain groups or organisations having certain possibilities to influence the households´ consumption through their contact with them. This included meetings with the plumbers association the inform them about the technical possibilities to reduce water consumption, and about possible water loss in the households. Similarly, there was established a co-operation with home-helpers, who were supposed to look after possible water leakages in the households they visited (typically leaking taps or toilets), and report back to CW, who would contact a caretaker.

Description of project - objectives/aims
The aim was to reduce the user´s consumption of water. This is due to limited and shrinking groundwater resources, caused by pollution (pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers). Moreover, the effects from water catchment on the nature are very visible and have direct consequences for other actors (“users” of the nature, e.g. farmers, fishers, citizens etc.). Securing clean groundwater and reducing the water consumption are related: As more and more sites are closed down, the water resource becomes more limited. And harder extraction of the remaining sources increases the pollution, as some pollutants are developed when they become oxidised (as a result of sinking groundwater level).

Description of project - time interval and stages
The water saving campaign started in 1989, and has continued. However, since Copenhagen Water in 2001 was merged with Copenhagen Energy (under the name of Copenhagen Energy), and the main agenda has been the liberalisation of the energy market in Denmark, the efforts and budgets for water savings have become limited.

Description of project - financing
The water saving campaign was financed by Copenhagen Water, and organised in a separate unit, "The water saving office". In the 1990ies, the office employed 5 full-time persons. Today, the water saving unit employs 1½ persons. Since 2001, the water saving office organisationally, has become an independent unit in Copenhagen Energy, selling its services to other parts of CE.

Description of project - other sectors involved
Aims for reducing water consumption is related to pollution of ground water (reduces available ground water resources), which is related to agriculture and land use, which Copenhagen Water traditionally has had little influence on.

What tools were used to assess sustainability?

Indicators on water consumption

More information

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