World Water Day and Heathrow…
It’s World Water Day today, so we’re taking a look at how Heathrow is improving the way this precious resource is used! To do this, we’ve caught up Mark Tomkins, Heathrow’s Resources and Environment Manager, to look at his role and some of the initiatives in place to improve water use at the airport!
What is your role in water at Heathrow?
Here at Heathrow, we use roughly the same amount of water as the city of Canterbury and we are the biggest water user in our catchment by a long way.
In my role as Resources and Environment Manager, I work with many departments across Heathrow, looking at how we use water today, how we should use it in the future, and what challenges we need to address to get there.
It’s a big job because water is important for our business and ability to deliver a good experience for our customers, which range from passengers to airlines, and commercial outlets.
It is used in everything from toilet facilities, cooling our terminal buildings, food and drink preparation, irrigating landscaping around the airport, washing aircraft – washing anything in fact!
What most people wouldn’t know is that we also generate a lot of water at Heathrow that we return to the environment. Nearly every drop of rainwater that falls on Heathrow is collected and ultimately released into local rivers and lakes.
In total, this amounts to over 2 billion litres a year!
Why is water such as important issue?
For most people in the UK, the value of water is only thought of when they receive a utility bill. The reality is, water isn’t really truly appreciated until it isn’t readily available!
With London and the South East of England experiencing a population boom – London alone will have up to an extra 2 million people by 2030 – the challenge of providing enough water for everyone is growing.
This is going to be an important challenge and given our large thirst for water, one where Heathrow can really make a contribution.
World Water Day is a great opportunity to recognise that each and every person can make a difference on what is an issue of global significance.
Why is water such an important for Heathrow Airport? What are you doing?
Heathrow generates millions of pounds of benefits to the UK each year but it does not do so at any cost.
We’ve been looking at innovative ways of reducing water use and improving local water quality as far back as the 1970’s but we are always looking at new ways that we can take this further.
- Over the last 10 years alone we have:
- Installed vehicle washing facilities that recycle waste water;
- Slowed the tap water flow rate in toilet hand basins helping reduce waste;
- Installed automatic controls across our water pipe network as well as leak detection technology;
- Implemented a rainwater harvesting scheme with the introduction of Terminal 5, re-uses rainwater that falls across the T5 campus;
- Upgraded our Mayfield Farm water treatment facility to increase the amount of water it can clean by six-fold; Mayfield Farm is a leading-edge reedbed treatment plant that treat’s de-icer coming from the airport, using natural processes to remove around 7 tonnes of organic pollution each year.
We also created the Heathrow Sustainability Partnership which brings together the over 400 companies working across the airport to educate, encourage and deliver a responsible and sustainable Heathrow – including more efficient water use.
All these efforts will help us to achieve our target to reduce Heathrow’s total water consumption by at least 10% between 2015 and 2020 despite more people using our airport and its facilities.
The only airport in the UK to have two independent water networks?
We are the only airport in the UK to have two significant independent water networks which have been installed at T2 and T5. One network supplies clean drinking water from our local water company to where it is needed.
The other carries clean water pumped from the groundwater under Heathrow to supply areas where drinking water standards are not necessary such as toilet flushing and irrigation.
Some of this is water is fed from rainwater collected from T5. As a result of this process, less energy is wasted in pumping water all the way to the Chilterns to be treated and then back.
We are responsible custodians of our water. It is smart business as it not only saves carbon emissions but reduces costs as well.
More about World Water Day
Held since 1993, World Water Day is an international day to raise awareness of water and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.
On World Water Day, people everywhere show that they care and that they have the power to make a difference. They get inspired by information and use it to take action and change things. This year many will focus on the power that water and jobs have to transform people’s lives. Their website can be found at: http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday .
Like this article? Why not find out more about Heathrow’s environment efforts via our new biodiversity blog, here!