THE DILEMMA I am worried about running out of water in the current drought. What can I do at home to conserve this precious resource, and will my efforts actually have any effect?
Every time drought is declared in this country, it coincides with a torrential downpour. So two weeks ago I stood in the severely depleted River Lathkill in Derbyshire assisting with a brown-trout rescue mission as horizontal rain belted us for seven hours. The Lathkill is so low that a unique strain of wild brown trout would have been left self-barbecuing on the rocks had they not been moved by the Environment Agency team to a lower part of the river where levels are protected by a network of weirs. This team patrolled the waters like aquatic ghostbusters sporting electrofishing backpacks and using electrodes to stun the fish before transferring them to an oxygenated tank.
It's difficult to get excited about water conservation when you live in a "wet country". Presumably that's why the British use a stupid amount of drinkable water to hydrate golf courses, wash down fleets of haulage trucks and flush the loo. Nearly half of the water used by UK homes for garden irrigation and flushing is mains potable water – treated at great ecological and fiscal expense.
It is amazing how many gardeners don't have a water butt, which just involves putting a barrel under a downspout. It's about as low tech as it gets.
Kingspan.com offers home rainwater harvesting solutions such as underground tanks in the garden that harvest "free" water; the company reports that the average three-bedroom house in Kent with a roof area of 60m² can yield 88 litres of water a day – or 50% of the family's water needs.
"Save Water. Bath With a Friend" was a favourite sticker in that famously dry summer of 1976. Cleaning product brand Method is promoting shareashower.com this summer (the rationale: even a shower uses 63 litres of water, and if everyone doubled up we could cumulatively save 1.5bn litres of water).
According to the NGO Food & Water Europe, consumer use (and therefore misuse, too) accounts for just 10% of global water supply. This isn't to say that personal water consumption and conservation isn't important – it is – but that we also need to think of the bigger issues. In the UK the organisation points to the culprit of ageing infrastructure with leaky pipes, unsustainable abstraction by agriculture and industry, and urbanisation. It maintains that the only way to manage resources fairly is to treat water as a common resource "stewarded for the long-term public good, in good times and bad".
It's time to get serious about water. The trout-removal service is funded by the rod licence, so anglers should pat themselves on the back for saving this last remaining indigenous strain. But who will come to the aid of the common human being?
Category: Personal Finance