England at risk of water shortages. The role of climate change, human behaviour and leakages
More than 5 billion people could suffer water shortages by 2050 due to climate change, increased water demand and polluted supplies, according to an UN report on the state of the world’s water. Today 3.6 billion people live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year and this number is set to increase as the population approaches 10 billion. Water stress – where the human or ecological demand for water is not met – is caused by a variety of factors. In developing countries, economic growth, the rising population and rapid urbanization all contribute to water shortages. Meanwhile, climate change puts an added stress on supplies because of changes in rain patterns.
When we think about water stress our mind goes to cities such as Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Cape Town or countries such as Yemen; we would never imagine that England could be at risk of water shortage, but it is. The news started appearing on various newspapers back in January and has been confirmed by the recent report issued by the Environment Agency that warns that wasted water from leaking pipes and overuse in homes is causing damage to rivers and wildlife and is putting increasing pressure on overstretched supplies. Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, stresses: “We need to change our attitudes to water use. It is the most fundamental thing needed to ensure a healthy environment but we are taking too much of it and have to work together to manage this precious resource”.
When talking about attitude to water use there are few simple tips that can help reducing water consumption – and in some cases energy – at home. We list below few that we feel are easy to implement:
1. Turn off the tap
It is the obvious action to take but we often forget to do it. You can save up to 6 litres of water a minute by turning off your tap while you brush your teeth.
2. Shower with less
Every minute spent in a power shower uses up to 17 litres of water. Turn off the shower when applying shampoo or body-wash and set a timer on your phone to keep your showers as short as possible.
3. Change shower head
Switching to an efficient shower head will allow you to lather up in less water, which means you'll save water and cut your bills.
4. Invest in a dishwasher or mind your washing-up technique
Washing plates by hand in the kitchen sink accounts for almost 10 per cent of household water consumption. When comparing a full load of dishes and cutlery cleaned using a dishwasher or hand dishwashing liquid, a dishwasher proves to be the most efficient way to clean dishes – both for water and energy. However, if cleaning only a few dishes, washing up by hand is preferred. In this case, put a bit of liquid detergent in a small bowl with water and clean the dishes dipping the sponge in the bowl without opening the tap. Use water only for the rinsing phase and keeping the water flow as low as possible.
5. Mindful Laundry
When using your washing machine, you can save water with these useful tips:
- Only wash full loads. Washing machines operate at maximum efficiency when the drum is full.
- Use the cotton instead of the synthetic wash cycle. To avoid creasing, synthetic wash programmes use fifty per cent more water than cotton washes.
- Stick to producer's recommendations when dosing detergent and conditioner to avoid extra rinsing as this will obviously use more water than necessary. If concerned about family members with sensitive skin, look for fragrance-free and hypoallergenic detergents.
- When you buy a new washing machine, check the water icon on the energy efficiency label.
To read about water stress in England and globally: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/23/england-at-risk-of-water-shortages-due-to-overuse-and-leaks-report-warns; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/19/water-shortages-could-affect-5bn-people-by-2050-un-report-warns and https://www.water.org.uk/news-water-uk/latest-news/research-shows-more-action-needed-protect-against-growing-drought-risk
For more tips on how to reduce water consumption: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/natural-resources/13-best-ways-save-water; http://www.waterwise.org.uk/save-water/ and http://www.how-to-save-water.co.uk;