According to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, rainfall in Cambridge this spring is half the level it has ever been, in springs going back to 1848. Some parts of Kent hasd just 4mm of rain last month. Farmers and growers in East Anglia have aggreed to irrigate only at night, to reduce evaporation of precious water.
Yes: England has officially had its driest spring for a century, and the government today announced a drought in East Anglia and parts of the south-west, south-east, the Midlands and Wales are experiencing near-drought conditions.
There are no hosepipe bans as yet; the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, has recognised that “Just bringing in blanket bans can have unintended consequences. You can, for example, put a garden centre out of business.” (Just think of all those poor strawberry plants.)
In the meantime, there are things we can all do – yes, you – to prevent a hosepipe ban coming in. Water may seem to come to us as if by magic, but it is very much not magic. It’s a finite resource, and becoming more so. An average household in Great Britain uses around 350 litres of water per day; that’s a lot more than we’d use if we had to collect it from a well! But although we aren’t shlepping it up the hill ourselves, we are all paying for it. Water costs Bitish households an average £340 a year in water and sewerage bills, plus around £200 on our energy bills for heating it up. In fact, heating water accounts for almost a third of our energy bills.
As well as costing us money, all this energy means carbon emissions, too, of course; aaving energy isn’t just about turning off the lights. If every UK home reduced their hot water use by just 5%, the CO2 savings would be equivalent to taking nearly 530,000 cars off the roads.
Well, but that’s enough bad news. There’s lots we can all do to save water – and save a strawberry. The Energy Saving Trust website has lots of information about water, and here are a few tips to be getting started with:
- Replacing an inefficient shower head with an eco-shower head can save a four-person family around £50 a year in gas bills, and £75 in metered water bills, That’s a total saving of £125.
- Fitting a dual flush mechanism to an old toilet could save a four-person household extra 44,000 litres of water a year – that’s around £100 in metered water bills.
- Using a bowl to wash up rather than leaving the hot tap running could save around £25 a year on gas bills and around £25 on metered water bills.
- Insulate your hot water cylinder. Putting a 75mm thick hot water cylinder jacket on your hot water will save around £35 a year. By insulating any visible hot water pipes you can save around a further £10 more off your annual gas billUse cold water rather than hot whenever possible.
- Choose the eco setting or lowest temperature setting when using your washing machine.
- If everyone in the UK washed their clothes at 30 degrees instead of higher temperatures, collectively we could save around £100 million (around 440000 tonnes of CO2
- A dripping tap wastes around 5,500 litres of water a year. If you are on a water meter fixing the tap could save you over £10 a year
- Your roof collects about enough rain water to fill 450 water butts every year. You can use this for your garden, your houseplants, or even to wash your car.
- Using a bucket and sponge to wash your car generally uses about a tenth of the water you would use compared to washing with a hosepipe.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy those strawberries!