Nine billion litres of water wasted fighting fires in UK businesses, reveals new report

Published:  21 July, 2011

The installation of fire protection sprinklers in commercial and industrial buildings would save England and Wales the equivalent of five times’ the entire annual bottled-water consumption for the UK.


That is the finding of research carried out by Bureau Veritas, which looked into the environmental impact of the 360-plus commercial fires that break out in the UK each year.

The report, titled “Assessing The Role For Fire Sprinklers”, discovered that installing fire sprinklers would save lives and jobs, and would also drastically cut the 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by commercial fires – as well as reduce the amount of water used to extinguish them by over 2000 times.

The research, the first of its kind, has been welcomed by politicians and industry experts.  Iain Cox, chairman of the newly-formed Business Sprinkler Alliance said it proved the environmental necessity for greater use of sprinkler systems. “The science is clear: the simple fire sprinkler can dramatically cut carbon emissions and water usage,” says Mr Cox, who is also the chief fire officer for the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue service.  “As the recent M1 fire and last year’s factory fire in Livingston showed, fire losses are felt right across the economy.  They cost the UK £3.4 million every day, they also cost lives and now we have the proof that they cause terrible environmental damage.”


Other key findings

  • When a fire breaks outs, commercial buildings fitted with sprinklers emit 22 per cent less carbon dioxide than those without
  • Buildings fitted with sprinklers often use only 0.2 per cent of the water used to extinguish a fire in a building that has no sprinklers
  • There is a clear net carbon benefit to installing sprinkler systems in all buildings over 5,000m2
  • Commercial fires often have hugely damaging environmental effects on local communities including air pollution, road closures, job losses, transport disruption and the evacuation of schools and residential areas to prevent health problems
  • Sprinkler pump pipework should be designed to recycle water during testing to ensure water conservation
  • Air pollution from commercial and industrial fires is rarely recorded. This is a major oversight that needs to be addressed
  • Fire sprinklers have a massively important role to play in active fire prevention.


Jim Marshall, Policy and Business Adviser at Water UK said that while protection of life needs to be the priority, using less water and carbon should be encouraged.  “Fire sprinklers can offer both of these priorities.  We need to be aware of the limited water resources that are available and where possible, reduce our impact on the water environment.”

Download the full report here or upload a pdf below.

File: Sprinklers report (2176k)
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