How Covid-19 changed England’s water consumption


Artesia is a dynamic consultancy company working with data science to develop innovative solutions for water sector challenges. The company has been supporting a number of water utilities across England and Wales to understand changes in patters of water demand associated with Covid-19. Alongside analysing water data monitoring system records, Artesia identified the need to gain a better understanding of the qualitive aspects of new patterns of water demand.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown in the UK, water companies have in fact observed significant changes in how much, where, and when people use water, changes which have affected water companies in various ways, including challenges to maintain the water supply at peak hours and loss of revenue.

This project investigated how the pandemic and lockdown changed the way people use water at home, offering insights into the drivers underpinning these changes and the potential short and long-term implications of these changes for water demand.

The Solution  

The project followed an interdisciplinary approach, building on quantitative data previously collected by Artesia, including a rapid evidence assessment of news articles, grey literature, and peer reviewed journal articles to set the context of the problem; six online focus group discussions that explored the lived experiences of changing domestic water use in the months following the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown in England and Wales.

The Impact  

This study provided a detailed explanation for the increase in water demand during lockdown. It allowed water and sewage companies in England and Wales to meet the requirements of the UK Environmental Agency and Ofwat, while providing timely evidence to amend industry standards in light of these sudden changes.

Recommendations on how to foster water sustainable futures amid these changes were presented to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, supporting a key policy aim of reducing personal water use and increasing water efficiency.

Project Lead

Cecilia Vidal, PhD candidate in Human Geography, University of Manchester.

See more on this project

Collaboration Labs Case Study – University of Manchester

Coronavirus lockdown caused dramatic changes in water consumption, research finds
UoM News, 11 November 2020

How the UK’s first lockdown changed water habits – and risked shortages
The Conversation, 22 March 2021

See how Artesia used the findings from this research report

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