We take fresh water very much for granted. Turn on the tap - and there it is. It is easy to forget how precious water is. The average person in the United Kingdom now washes away a staggering 1,000 litres of water a week.
Just stop for a moment and think what life would be like if you had to walk for two hours to a well and carry each bucket of water back to the house
The heavy usage of the water table is disrupting the natural systems and affecting plants and animals. As climate change accelerates, rainfall patterns will alter and, in some areas, water supplies will become depleted. Building more reservoirs and transporting water causes environmental problems such as loss of habitats and damage to fragile eco-systems. If we use water more sensibly we can significantly alter the situation.
As well as reducing the volume of water that we use, we must also ensure that water pollution is tackled effectively. This will protect both our health and the wider environment.
2.4 billion people on our planet do not have access to safe water and 2 billion lack adequate sanitation or water to grow crops. The impacts of climate change are likely to affect the people who have the least responsibility for carbon emissions, and very little capacity to respond to the major droughts, floods and increasing climatic disruption.
1. A shower or a bath?
A five-minute shower consumes approximately thirty-five litres of water, half the amount of water - and energy - that a full bath takes. And five minutes is a long time in the shower! Add a fine spray attachment to your shower so that you use even less water. If you have a bath, make sure you re-use the water. Pre-soak washing, water the garden with the water, or use it to wash the floor or windows.
2. Repair all leaks and drips immediately, install a low-flush toilet and ensure that your water company is maintaining adequate standards and not wasting water
Often, all that a dripping tap needs is the washer replaced - yet this simple step can stop up to 5 litres of water leaking away each day. Flushing the loo accounts for over a third of our water use. Installing a low-flush toilet means that you have a choice of two flushes - a long one or a short one - and this greatly reduces the amount of water used. If you cannot have one of these installed, try carefully putting an insoluble object in the cistern to reduce the amount of water used in each flush. Many of the water companies provide suitable bottles and bags.
In some areas of the United Kingdom, more than a third of our water supply is being lost through leaky pipes. Find out from OFWAT what your water company's record is. If it's bad, write and insist they invest more of their profits in water conservation. Water companies are legally obliged to state when levels of contaminants in tap-water breach European Community limits. By reporting all such infringements, you can encourage prosecution of offenders and force an improvement in the quality of tap water (contact OFWAT for details).
OFWAT. Office of Water Services, Centre City Tower, 7 Hill Street,
Birmingham, B5 4UA. Tel: 0121 625 1300. www.ofwat.gov.uk
Your local water supplier - see your local telephone directory.
If you don't feel you have got an adequate response from your water company or OFWAT, you could consider buying a single share in the water company for a few pounds and then go along to the Company AGM to ask questions and challenge the Directors and Management on their environmental performance. You will often find that other share-holders will have similar concerns.
3. Make the most of rainy days by collecting rain-water
Invest in a rainwater collection system to flush your toilets, you will substantially reduce the volume of treated water used.
Green Shop - Mail order - rain/grey-water equipment - Bisley, Stroud, Gloucester, GL6 7BX. Tel: 01452 770629. www.greenshop.co.uk
4. Re-use household water and use water sparingly. Drink tap water not bottled water.
Water the garden with your bath water and washing up water (let it cool and make sure your detergents are eco-friendly). You'll be surprised at how much running water is wasted. Fill up a mug with water and use it to clean your teeth, rather than leave the tap running.
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management has pointed out the substantial fuel costs, and thousands of tonnes of harmful emissions involved in transferring over 22 million tonnes of bottled liquid from country to country every year. In contrast, tap water is provided by a comparatively efficient infrastructure of underground pipes and plumbing. It is insane to pay to throw away a plastic bottle when tap water is often of better quality.
5. Don't contribute to water pollution
Try out some detergent-free ‘eco-balls' and natural soap pods in your washing machine. Check loo cleaners and household products for ingredients that might damage water organisms. If you're not sure what it is or what it does, and the manufacturer won't give you clear answers - don't use it!
Natural Collection - Mail order - detergents, nappies and green goods -
Eco House, Monmouth Place, Bath, BA1 2DQ. Tel: 0870 3313333. www.naturalcollection.com
6. Avoid disposable nappies and use real nappies and your local nappy exchange
Disposable nappies form 4% of household waste in Britain costing the tax payer £40 million each year to dispose of them. The cost to the environment is even greater: in the UK alone, we discard 9 MILLION SOILED NAPPIES EVERY DAY. These are put into landfill sites, and can take up to 500 years to decompose.
National Association of Nappy Services - Tel 0121 6934949 www.changeanappy.co.uk
Women's Environment Network - PO Box 30626. London, E1 1TZ.
Tel: 020 74819004. www.wen.org.uk
Buy re-usable nappies that you can wash. Find out if there is a local nappy exchange. These groups can help you save money and reduce the amount of resources wasted in producing and washing nappies.
Real Nappy Association UK Nappy Helpline: 01983 401959 - www.realnappy.com
Many local councils' support and subsidise nappy washing services. Contact your waste disposal or environmental health department and ask if there is such a service in your area. (Numbers in the Phone Book under the name of your Local Authority).
7. Give up or eat meat as a real treat
It takes 500 litres of water to produce 1kg of potatoes, 900 litres per kg of wheat, 3,500 litres per kg of digestible chicken flesh and a massive 100,000 litres for 1kg of beef. By these figures, producing one kilogram of beef uses as much water as: 40 baths, 300 toilet flushes, and 100 times the clean water needed by an individual according to UNESCO
Since a large percentage of the crops we feed to our farmed animals are grown on 'ghost acres' in developing countries, this wasted water is coming not just from our own reserves but from the very countries where drinking water is most scarce. Not only is eating less meat good for your health, the water and energy saving is very high.
World meat production has quadrupled in the past 50 years and livestock now outnumber people by more than 3 to 1. In other words, the livestock population is expanding at a faster rate than the human population. A cow will produce 120kg of methane per year, which as a powerful greenhouse gas, is the equivalent of 2.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Vegan Society - Donald Weston House, 7 Battle Road, St.Leonards-On-Sea,
East Sussex, TN37 7AA. Tel: 01424 427393. www.vegansociety.com
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - PETA - PO Box 36668,
London, SE1 1WA. Tel: 020 735 79229. www.peta.org
Vegetarian Society - Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham,
Cheshire, WA14 4QG Tel: 0161 925 2000 - www.vegsoc.org
- Friends of the Earth - 26 -28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ.
Tel: 020 7490 15555 www.foe.co.uk
- Water Aid - Prince Consort House, 27-29 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7UB. Tel: 020 7793 4500 www.wateraid.org.uk
- Centre For Alternative Technology. Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 9AZ
Tel: 01654 702 400. www.cat.org.uk
- Water Wise - 1 Queen Anne's Gate, London, SW1H 9BT. Tel: 0207 9574615. www.waterwise.org.uk
Funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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