Earth – not the ‘final frontier’ but seen from space, we call it the ‘blue planet’ as seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. The oceans hold about 96.5% of all the water on the planet but this is salt water and humans cannot drink it. We need fresh water to survive, but just 3.5% of the water on the earth is fresh water, and about two-thirds of that is currently trapped in the glaciers and polar ice caps. Most of the rest of the fresh water is in the ground known as ground water, which leaves less than 1% of the world’s fresh water in our streams, rivers and lakes, accessible to humans.
Even with all this water around us, fresh water that we can drink and use, is in scarce supply in some parts of the world and there are still people living in the 21st century who do not have access to fresh water supplies as a matter of course. Fortunately, the UK is a place in the world where fresh tap water is currently available, literally ‘on tap’ and few of us have any issues with finding fresh water to drink. We probably even take if for granted. But it has not always been this way. Centuries ago, we had to draw water from a well, collecting the water each day for our daily washing, cooking and drinking needs. Perhaps we had more understanding then of the precious nature of this live-giving fluid.
According to one website, three billion litres of perfectly good drinking water is wasted in the UK every day – “enough to make 15 billion cups of tea or hydrate the entire population of Africa”.
To be fair, a lot of it is wasted in the pipes before it gets to our houses as some of the pipes delivering water to urban areas are leaky and it is not always cost effective to repair them. Even more reason to be careful with the water we do get as it only takes a few weeks of reduced rainfall, and the reservoirs start to dry up, the water companies issue hosepipe bans, and we all start thinking about saving water again.
But why not save water as a matter of course? It can reduce our water bills and make a positive environmental difference. In a speech known as the ‘jaws of death speech’, Sir James Bevan laid out the situation regarding water in the UK saying:
“With population growth, changing weather patterns including hotter summers and drier winters, water is becoming increasingly vulnerable to scarcity, even in the UK. By 2040, we expect more than half of our summers to exceed 2003 temperatures. That will mean more water shortages: by 2050, the amount of water available could be reduced by 10-15%, with some rivers seeing 50%-80% less water during the summer months. It will mean higher drought risk, caused by the hotter drier summers and less predictable rainfall. On the present projections, many parts of our country will face significant water deficits by 2050, particularly in the southeast where much of the UK population lives. ”
Sir James Bevan, CEO of the Environment Agency.
Water Saving Week
Each year in May, waterwise.org.uk organise Water Saving Week, aimed at raising awareness of the issues surrounding modern water use, and finding solutions to problems of supply to help keep our water supply efficient and sustainable. Everyone can become more aware of the water they use and how to save it, and if we start teaching our children young enough, maybe we’ll still have time to make a difference before it’s too late.
Water Saving Week is happening this year from 16 - 23rd May and there are lots of websites with lots of activities for younger and older children alike that you can join in with. We’ve listed some of our favourite ones from around the web below. These include factsheets, word searches, ways to make a water-powered rocket and home made water filters:
- How to be a leak detective
- The Diary of a Water Superhero (English) and (Welsh)
- Super Splash Heroes resources online
- Water Superhero Challenge
- Eco Schools
- Flow Zone
How to reduce your water usage in your setting
Bathrooms: we use about 68% of our water usage in the bathroom, but there are ways in which you can make your water usage more efficient. These include having showers instead of baths, using aerated shower heads or low flow shower heads and making sure you have efficient, dual flush toilet systems which can save approximately 50 – 75% water compared to older cisterns. If you can’t change your toilet, you can get cistern displacement devices (CDDs) which can save around 1 litre of water per flush and are available free from most water companies.
Leaky taps: most leaky taps can be fixed simply by replacing a washer so get all taps fixed if they have a leak.
Cleaning teeth: turn the tap off when cleaning teeth and rinse your toothbrush in a cup of water instead or only turn the tap on when you need it.
Dishes: using a dishwasher on eco setting can save water compared to washing and rinsing dishes by hand. Make sure you only run your dishwasher when it is full. You can add aerating taps to dishwashers too.
Laundry: use water efficient programs on washing machines and run them fully loaded to make them more efficient. Running on cooler temperatures will also help you to use less electricity too.
Gardens: invest in some water butts to collect rainwater to water your plants. There are some decorative ones available, or you could get the children to decorate them as well. Think about planting plants that are drought tolerant and use a watering can instead of a hose pipe. The RHS have some great watering advice here.
Lawns: the advice here is not to water lawns but to let them go brown in drier spells, as they will recover when it does rain. Water companies also advise against artificial grass as it takes a lot of water to make, so do your research before buying artificial grass thinking it is a water-saving option.
Recycle water: if you really want to make some changes to your setting, there are ways that you can recycle water more such as using ‘grey water’ for use in toilets. Companies such as https://www.aquaco.co.uk/ can help with rainwater harvesting and water recycling too.