Water efficiency can help beat the drought

21 February 2012

Improving water efficiency won't make it rain, but it is a powerful way to manage limited water supplies

Yesterday's drought summit, hosted by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, and attended by water companies, farmers and other NGOs, was an opportunity for key representatives to come together and talk through a plan for the drought. It was important – but not enough was done to address future water needs versus future capacity.

It is important that people (and organisations) recognise that water efficiency is not an emergency measure – it is an essential component of a necessary shift toward a culture in which we value and use our resources wisely year-round, regardless of weather. Our managing director Jacob Tompkins says, "Short-term emergency measures won't solve what may be a long-term issue. Eighteen of the last 23 months have seen below average rainfall, but it may be defining a new average."

As water supplies continue to be threatened by the lack of rain, a concerted effort on behalf of stakeholders will be required in order to ensure the long-term safety of our water supplies and way of life. Groundwater levels in parts of England are lower than in 1976. We need to start managing our water supply better, not just building expensive infrastructure to meet ever increasing demand.

The idea of a national water grid comes with near-insurmountable logistic problems: the differing chemistry of water in different areas; the variability of areas of scarcity; the sheer cost of an infrastructure project of this magnitude – which would have significant impacts on water bills, and so on. The way to beat this drought is to help people and businesses, all over the country, at home and at work, use water more efficiently.

And not just now through the summer: always. England's population will increase by almost 10 million by 2035. This kind of increase, coupled with a trend towards much drier weather and more water intensive lifestyles, means water efficiency is a necessary component of a smart plan to manager our water supplies. 

As the Water White Paper makes clear, we need to start valuing water, and the time to take that action is now.

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