As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
Make no mistake, the water shortages faced in the UK this summer should not be dismissed as “just another hosepipe ban.” You only have to look around Europe to read headlines such as ‘Water Shortage Cripples Nuclear Reactors in France’, ‘Dutch Government Declares Water Shortage Due to Drought’ and ‘Water Scarcity: EU Countries Forced to Restrict Drinking Water Access’ to know that something isn’t right.
The problem isn’t a new one though. For some time the Environment Agency has cautioned that the UK faces a significant water shortage by 2050, by which point the country’s population is expected to have risen from 67 million to 75 million people.
Back in 2019, the Agency’s Chief Executive, Sir James David Bevan, warned that the country faces the ‘‘jaws of death – the point at which we will not have enough water to supply our needs.”
“We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea,” he said.
‘But the Earth is 70% water,’ we here you cry. Yes, but only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, and around 65% of that is stored in frozen glaciers.
The Environment Agency has suggested that in the UK the average person’s daily water usage could be reduced from 140 litres of water to 100 litres through more efficient use in homes and gardens.
Progress has been made by water companies but much more needs to be done to tackle wastage. Across England and Wales, nearly 3 billion litres (660 million gallons) of water is lost to leaks every single day – enough to fill almost 1,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In our opinion, when it comes to water we also need to look at how homes are built and function. Just as big changes are planned when it comes to how we heat and power our homes. It cannot be right that in the 21St Century we flush our toilets with clean drinking water that in some parts of our planet people would walk miles to drink. Up to a third of the water we use in our homes comes from flushing.
So, how can we all save water? Here are our ten tips…
- Swap baths for short showers. An average bath will use around twice as much water as a five minute shower.
- Use water butts in the garden, water at night or early in the morning and a good mulch to retain moisture. Even the smallest water butts will fill 20 watering cans and rainwater is better for your plants.
- Use watering cans, not a garden hose, and avoid watering lawns. Lawns will generally recover so don’t waste water on them. A garden hose or sprinkler system will use around 15 litres per minute meaning in just 20 minutes you could have filled your bath four times.
- Turn the taps off when brushing your teeth, shaving, washing up etc. A running tap wastes over six litres per minute.
- Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when full and use an eco-setting. It can actually be more efficient than washing them by hand.
- If you have a dual (two button) flush, check which button uses the least water and stick with it. This can use half the amount of water every time you flush the toilet.
- Install efficient or water saving taps, shower heads etc. Your water supplier will often provide discounted options.
- Save cooled water from cooking to water plants. Particularly if you’ve been boiling the likes of pasta and potatoes – plants love starchy water.
- Avoid excessive car washing. Wash your car less often and use a bucket and a sponge instead of a hose or jet wash.
- Deal with or report any leaks. Around a third of our water is lost to leaks, ranging from dripping taps to burst water mains.
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