The warm shower on a chilly autumn evening. The hot cup of tea or steaming bowl of soup. The 20 second wash that keeps our hands clean. The 20 minute ‘me time’ bathroom break away from family chaos. Even the simple flush of a loo. Water makes it possible. All those rituals that we’re lucky enough to be able to take for granted involve water in some way.
But our supply is not infinite, and increasing pressure on our water sources – from climate change, a growing population, and our thirsty individual demand for water – is harming the environment and our communities. It turns out that we can’t keep taking water for granted.
In the UK we spend an average of just over £1 per day on our household water bill. That’s about the same as ⅓ of a specialty coffee, ¼ pint of a beer in a pub, 1 and a ¼ postage stamps, or a pedicure on ½ a toenail!
For that we get a clean plentiful supply of the wet stuff to drink, cook our food in, wash with, clean our clothes and dishes with, water our plants and garden with and even flush our toilets with! To some of us, paying our water bill every month is a real stretch. To others – well, we hardly bat an eyelid. For all of us, there’s the temptation to measure the worth of water only in terms of how much we pay for it.
But water’s value is about so much more than the number on the water bill.
Ever imagined the price of having no safe and reliable source of water at home, or at our businesses? What would we drink, wash in, clean our clothes and dishes with? How would we stay healthy? How would we live?
Right now, we’re lucky enough that most of the time we don’t have to think about how precious water is. But, shockingly, some parts of the UK are predicted to run out of water within ten years if we don’t change course now.
To many other inhabitants of the UK, not having enough water is already the reality. And to a water vole, salmon or otter, a free flowing river can mean the difference between life or death.
More than one in five water bodies in England are suffering or at risk from too much water being taken from them to supply households and businesses, and more than half of the species that depend on UK rivers, lakes and wetlands are in decline, with 13% of our freshwater and wetlands species threatened with extinction.
If we carry on like this, more rivers will run dry, more wildlife will suffer, and even our own communities and businesses will be hit by water shortages.
There’s another option…
We can change the way we think about water. We can learn to value it before our precious environment dries up and there’s not enough to go around. We can enjoy water – wonderful, life-giving, thirst-quenching water – and still use it mindfully.