In July, the UK government set out its Jet Zero strategy for all airports in England to be zero emission by 2040 and for UK domestic aviation to be Net Zero by the same year. The strategy is part of the government’s plan for the aviation industry to stay below pre-pandemic levels of carbon emissions. Aviation is currently responsible for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. The sustainability targets for individual airports shows that many already have even more ambitious targets than the government is proposing with Jet Zero.

In this blog, we take a look at those targets to find out what our airports are doing to save water.

How many airports have factored water into these strategies?

AGS Airports

Glasgow Airport, Aberdeen International Airport and Southampton Airport are all owned by AGS Airports. AGS has an ambitious sustainability strategy which has already resulted in all three airports becoming carbon neutral in 2020. It currently gets its electricity from 100% renewable sources, has a zero landfill policy, and is aiming for a Net Zero target by the mid-2030s.

Part of AGS’s sustainability pledge specifically addresses the issue of water:

  • monitoring surface water run-off to prevent pollution reaching natural water courses
  • implementing a water stewardship plan with airport partners
  • a feasibility study to determine the potential for water harvesting

AGS is making progress in its overall sustainability strategy. In 2022, Glasgow Airport was awarded gold for resource efficiency for its efficient use of water, materials and power under the Scottish Government’s Resource Efficiency Pledge.

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport has set up a water efficiency and quality programme as part of its sustainability targets. It uses interceptor tanks to collect and filter surface water from the airfield and car parks. The water is pumped through filters that remove contaminants such as grit, sediment and oil before it is allowed to get into the drainage system, ensuring only clean water is returned to the environment.

Heathrow Airport

The UK’s largest airport is Heathrow. It is using advanced water treatment solutions to prevent corrosion in its 39 cooling towers, which, in the first 12 months, saved 130 million litres of water, increasing water efficiency by around 5%. As part of its sustainability strategy, the airport collects and treats surface water run-off so it complies with permitted limits when it is discharged. In the winter, it aims to maximise the amount of de-icing fluid recovered.

Manchester Airports Group

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) owns and operates London Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands Airports. Water management is part of MAG’s CSR strategy. In 2020/21, it installed water meters at London Stansted and East Midlands Airports in order to measure water consumption more accurately. MAG has a target of 100% compliance with environmental permits, although it admits there were occasions when this didn’t happen. However, MAG is taking steps to return to full compliance.

What are airports in water-stressed countries doing?

Water stress in the UK has been predicted for years, but after the heatwaves this summer, the topic is now in the public consciousness and is likely to be of increasing concern to the UK’s airports. We thought it would be interesting to see what airports are doing about water sustainability in parts of the world where water stress has been a chronic problem.

Many airport activities that require water don’t need that water to be potable. At Sao Paulo Airport in Brazil, wastewater is reclaimed, treated and reused for non-potable uses, for example, irrigation, toilet flushing, vehicle washing, fire fighting, and dust control.

Mumbai International Airport has a target of reducing overall water consumption by 2%. It has already installed waterless urinals and energy-efficient water nozzles in the cooling towers, and it has a policy to educate staff about its water conservation efforts. It has plans to install a water treatment plant and to introduce storm water collection and desilting of the airport’s water channels.

Hong Kong International Airport is using an innovative water resource management system that integrates freshwater, seawater and reclaimed grey water. This sustainable triple water supply system has resulted in a 52% reduction in its freshwater demand.

Sydney Airport has an ongoing aim of reducing the amount of potable water that’s used in the terminals year-on-year. It is also treating wastewater from international terminals to be used for cooling and toilet flushing - in the last year, 35% of water in the Terminal 1 building was recycled.

Los Angeles World Airports takes water efficiency and conservation into account as part of its planning and design guidelines. Initiatives include low-flow devices on toilets and sinks, using recycled water to wash vehicles, and irrigating landscaped areas with reclaimed water - the airport estimates the use of reclaimed water saves 182 million litres (40.2 million gallons) of water each year.

Water services for the Aviation Industry

If your airport is to establish an all-round sustainability strategy, water efficiency needs to be an important part of that. Given the size of airports and the vast numbers of passengers, crew and staff that use them, water efficiency could also save significant amounts of money.

Castle Water can assist with identifying opportunities where airports can re-use water for a variety of both industrial and nonindustrial functions. Our specialist water management  services, chemical treatment processes, and trade effluent expertise are tailored solutions to reduce your water wastage and help reach sustainability goals.

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