When we turn on the tap it feels like we have an infinite supply of water, we put the kettle on then have to re-boil it because we got distracted and forgot to make the tea. We like to have nice deep baths and we do numerous clothes washes a week. Do we give this much thought?
We may not even be aware that over 97% of the water on the planet is seawater, too salty for us as humans! The percentage of fresh water on this planet available for our use is actually really small.
At the Hub this month we have been focusing on sustainability, and reading around this week I’ve been interested to see the term “water security”. I have often seen the phrase ‘food security’ but haven’t come across it in relation to water before. When you think about the statistics above, it is actually really easy to see why we might have water insecurity. Perhaps that feeling that we have unlimited access to water is making us complacent?
So, what is water insecurity, and how do we make our water more sustainable?
Water insecurity is not having reliable access to adequate quantities of acceptably clean water. This, we know, is, unfortunately, something which many countries in the world experience on a daily basis. If we are to help solve the water crises we all need to support charities that are building wells, toilets, and filtration systems where they are needed.
We all need to value water
Here in the UK, it can feel like we don’t have any problem with water. In fact, it’s easy not to give water a second thought. But we should have a responsibility to be more mindful with what we use and to help solve water insecurity elsewhere in the world.
We have two connecting issues to work with: water consumption and energy usage related to that. The less water we use, the less we will waste and the less energy we will use too. We cannot be complacent with water if there are people living with barely any access to it. Charities such as Water Aid (www.wateraid.org/uk) are working hard to provide clean water around the world. By supporting work such as this, and making changes in our own homes, we will together address the water issues facing us globally today.
What can I do at home to help save water and energy?
The most important thing we can do at home is waste as little water as possible. By reducing our wastage, we save energy and reduce our carbon footprint. With less wastage, there would be more water available for animals and plants in the environment and we would create less pollution. Water scarcity leads to crop failures with all the knock-on effects of this such as food shortages and price rises.
Fortunately, there are a few easy things we can all do at home which make a significant difference to our water consumption and the amount of energy we use in connection with our water usage.
Friends of the Earth have some suggestions to help:
Turn off Taps – simple! Specifically, when we are brushing our teeth. Just turn off that tap when not using it!
Shower without the power – power showers can use so much water. You can swap to a water-saving shower head and reduce your water consumption by gallons. And by cutting your shower time by just one minute you can also save gallons of water a month.
Run less washes – two half loads of laundry use more energy and water than one full load. So save up that laundry until you have a full load and look to see if your washing machine has an eco wash setting to boot. Remember to use an environmentally friendly laundry detergent for maximum benefit.
Think about food waste – Growing food takes a huge amount of water and energy, don’t put all that to waste by chucking it in the bin! Try to minimise food waste by meal planning where possible, and using up leftovers. A lot of food waste can be composted (see last week’s blog!) and this helps reduce the waste impact.
Watering the garden – When the garden needs watering in the warmer weather, watering at the beginning or the end of the day, when it is cooler, means the water doesn’t evaporate like it does in the heat of the day, it can get down to the roots of the plants and do the best work. This means you don’t need to use so much water.
Water butts – collecting rainwater is brilliant because it is better for the plants than tap water and saves wasting water. Just remember to keep the water butt covered so animals and insects cannot get trapped. To give them a drink safely, leave shallow bowls of water out but put stones in so insects can crawl out.
Low flush toilets – like water-saving showerheads, if you are planning to upgrade your bathroom, choose a low flush toilet for effortless water-saving!
Use a dishwasher – a full dishwasher load is a better option than washing up by hand. And less effort!
Consider what we are eating – The amount of water and energy used in food growing and preparation varies greatly. High consumers are meat and dairy products, almond milk, and growing avocados. By buying local low-impact produce we can make a big difference.
Kettle – we all know we should only boil what we need, we just need to do it!
Steam veggies – it uses less water than boiling (and helps retain nutrients too), or if we do boil veg, we can use the water once cooled to water plants.
Check your household plumbing – in case of leaks and know where the stop valve is! In case of flood!
Check where you invest money – check the credentials of companies you invest in and make sure that they are not polluting waterways and are not causing water wastage.
It may feel like we are not doing much, as these are small changes. But if enough of us put the effort in then we will save gallons and gallons of water over a year, and on top of that, we will save energy too.
As a nation, we can address wastage in agriculture and plumbing, and work together on restoring and protecting our ecosystems. All this really needs to happen alongside helping and supporting countries that have water insecurity.
Then, collectively, we will have a more sustainable and beneficial relationship with water.