We’re basking in a glorious summer. There’s a glut of strawberries, and it’s looking like a bumper crop of apples this year. Despite the recent lack of rain, the Met Office says that Spring has seen average rainfall. But longer term, the Environment Agency says the way we use water in the UK is unsustainable.
It estimates that 3bn litres of water are lost in England every day through leaks from pipes. That’s equivalent to the amount of water used by more than 20 million people in an average day. Individual households also use unsustainable levels of water. All in all, one third of water taken from the natural environment is wasted through leaks, treatment losses, and in people’s homes.
This huge demand for water places stress on our rivers and streams, harming wildlife and damaging wetlands. Stagnant water could even – as our climate warms – see the introduction of diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Climate change is likely to deliver more extremes of weather – torrential rain followed by extremely dry patches. This cycle means that more water runs off the land rather than seeping into it and replenishing the water table. These factors all lead the Environment Agency to warn that the UK might be facing a 30-year drought. This is likely to be worse in the South East, but even in this green corner of England we will see the effects.
Clearly, it’s up to the water companies to address the hugely wasteful leaks that are going on in the system. But we can all do our bit. As a base line, measure your water use. The Energy Saving Trust has an online water use calculator to help you work this out. Consider a water metre – they can save money if you’re a small family in a larger house.
Take shorter showers, don’t overfill the kettle, wash fruit in a bowl rather than under a running tap. Turn the tap off when you’re cleaning your teeth and use a watering can rather than a hose or sprinkler. Wash your car by hand (or get the kids to do it). Only using the dishwasher or washing machine when there’s a full load conserves water and cuts your fuel bills.
And finally, if it hasn’t rained for a while, why not leave out water for the birds and small creatures in the garden. And don’t forget to top up the pond (with a watering can, of course!).
Published in Keynsham Voice, July 2018, www.keynshamvoice.co.uk