Water Conservation for the Retail Industry

A guide to reducing water use in your retail business

Water is a precious resource, fundamental to both homes and businesses. But it's also a limited resource with water shortages becoming a global reality. However, small changes such as identifying water waste on site, setting a baseline for water use, raising awareness amongst staff and customers, or upgrading to water efficient devices can help to save water and money.

Certified water steward graduate: Case study

Sustainability is a top priority for Irish retailers. Many retailers have already completed Uisce Éireann’s Water Stewardship Programme and the feedback has been incredibly positive. They’ve taken a range of new tips, tools and information from the course and transferred them into tangible results - saving water and money for their businesses. Meet one of our retail graduates, and find out how Uisce Éireann’s Water Stewardship Programme has benefitted their business in this video:

Water Stewardship Retail Ireland Programme 2021

Set a baseline

Get started by setting a baseline on water usage per annum. Then track your progress in reducing this year on year.

  • Check your water bills to examine water use patterns and charges and safely check your water meter.
  • Detect leaks – identify a period with little or no water use across the areas of your site such as overnight and carry out a night-time test.

How to carry out a night-time test

  1. Find your water meter
  2. Record meter reading at the end of the day (at the close of business)
  3. Ensure all water consumers are turned off, including urinals
  4. Record meter reading first thing in the morning (before business opens)
  5. The difference in readings will tell you the night-time usage, when the business is closed
  6. If water consumption is unexpected, and can't be accounted for, you may have a leak. Fixing a leak will save water and save money.

Monitoring & measuring

Saving water while maintaining cleanliness is the biggest challenge for retail businesses. Before taking the plunge on your water-saving initiative, a good start would be to compare water use to other industry benchmarks. This will provide an estimation of the average water use for a specific industry sector, helping you to evaluate current consumption patterns before analysing your own.

Water benchmarks for commercial units


2.48 Litres / m2 (floor area) / day

Shopping Centre

3.00 Litres / m2 (floor area) / day

Café/fast food/butcher

2.48 Litres / m2 (floor area) / day

Reducing water consumption

With little or no cost

Training staff on the role of water at your premises and their role in its conservation. Raise awareness amongst customers and ask for their support to help protect the environment

Assessing water pressure as high pressure can result in excessive water use and cause leaks

Fitting a quarter-turn isolation valve to regulate water flow

Reducing heat loss or gain by not running hot and cold pipes close together

Reducing the amount of water used for cleaning and rinsing

Making a commitment to use less water as part of your business' environmental policy

Quick return on investment

There are a number of simple and cost-effective technologies that you can use to reduce water use in your business. These devices include:

Cistern volume adjusters and low-volume flush cisterns

Proximity sensors fitted in urinals

Hand detectors on taps

Rainwater harvesting

Sub-metering on individual washrooms to analyse use

When replacing equipment such as dishwashers, ensure the new machines are energy/water efficient