Sainsbury's has announced that its new store at Weymouth Gateway will be water neutral — 100 percent of its water demand will be met through water-efficient infrastructure and offsetting partnerships in the local community, and the total water used within the local catchment area will not increase as a result of this new store. The grocery retailer says it will also replicate this approach at its new supermarket in Leicester, opening at the end of November.
70 percent of the water demand of Sainsbury’s water-neutral Weymouth store will be met through rainwater harvesting and other water-efficient infrastructure. The remaining 30 percent, which needs to be drinking quality potable water for food preparation, will be offset by sponsoring water-saving initiatives at partner sites in the local community. For example, the store will offset at least 4.5 m3 of mains water each day through collaborations with Weymouth College and Wey Valley School, which will also substantially reduce these educational institutes’ annual water bills.
Speaking last week at a joint annual lecture from Sainsbury’s and The Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, entitled “The growing challenge of water stewardship,” Sainsbury's Property Director, Neil Sachdev, explained the importance of these types of initiatives: "Water scarcity is becoming a very real challenge and to ensure we have water in the future we need to find ways to reduce what we use right now. Measuring, managing and reducing water use is one of the most important focus areas for our business and one of the targets in our 20x20 Sustainability Plan.
"From experience we believe we can help safeguard what we’ll need in the future by taking action now. By collaborating with our partners and suppliers to better understand the amount of water we’re using in our operations and supply chain, we can start to put measures in place like Water Neutral to help reduce the amount we use and address this global challenge."
At the event, professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, discussed the role of water in the climate system and our current understanding of what changes will occur in the future.
"We are conducting a dangerous experiment with our planet,” Hoskins said. “We are already seeing evidence of changes in many different aspects of the climate system, from the ice sheets to the deep ocean. In certain regions we are likely to see changes in rainfall, decreases in soil moisture, and increased risk of drought. All of this affects the availability of water and this is particularly critical for irrigated agriculture, which currently produces 40 percent of the world’s food."
Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s achieved its goal of a 50 percent relative reduction in its water use (per m2) — saving almost one billion litres each year (or 393 Olympic-sized swimming pools) while growing its floor space by up to 40% since 2005/06 — by introducing measures including rainwater harvesting and fitting pre-rinse spray taps and low-flush toilets in all its stores. It also became the first retailer to receive the Carbon Trust Water Standard for reducing water use year-on-year.