Whilst much of the emphasis has been on finding the right renewable energy technologies to reduce our carbon footprint on the world, there is one other growing problem that we will, at some point, need to address. You might think that water shortage would just apply to the hotter regions of the globe but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Estimates suggest that by as early as 2030, our own water supply in the UK & US could well fall short by as much as 40%. Water is critical to our future growth and without it we would not be able to survive. Our industries need it on a large scale and our houses need it to perform simple tasks like doing the washing and flushing the toilet – not to mention that we actually need good clean water to exist at all.
According to the growing blue website: “Today, many regions of the world are already water stressed due to population and economic growth. In fact, 2.5 billion people (36% of the world population) live in these regions and more than 20% of the global GDP is already produced in risky, water-scarce areas affecting production, as well as corporate reputations when competition over water usages develops.”
Why we all need to start saving water
In the UK, we probably take our water supply for granted more than any other place in the world where resources are more limited. After all, we simply need to turn on the tap and there it is, pouring out of the faucet, as much as we want. Yes, we’re used to those drought warnings every so often but they’ll pass soon enough and things will get back to normal.
Except that our population is growing and the water is not as infinite as we think.
Severe water shortages because of the growing population and lack of resource could cause us major problems in the next decade or two. Water shortages could, for instance, affect our farmers and the crops we produce, putting a large strain on the nation’s resources. It could also stop industry from performing properly and even damage our ability to supply power through electricity to our homes and businesses.
Rainwater harvesting will become important
Making the most of our water supplies will become of increasing importance in the future and all of us need to start thinking about measures such as rainwater harvesting. Many of people with an interest in gardening already do it by installing devices such as water butts which can be used to water plants during the summer. But rainwater harvesting offers so much more and can even be used to feed into your toilet for flushing and piped to your dishwasher or washing machine through a separate network.
Rainwater harvesting basically takes the water that lands on an area like the roof top and, instead of letting it drain away, channels it into a water tank. This filtered water can then be pumped for what are called potable uses such as running the washing machine in your house. You use the main, cleaner, water supply for your daily cooking and drinking but use the harvested water for everything else.
For those who have a water meter that means you can also help to reduce your overall bills because you are using less water from the mains. Whilst rainwater harvesting may not be at the forefront of our minds at the moment it should certainly be so in the near future. If resources become more limited, then the price of that cup full from the tap could well begin to go up quite sharply.
How the National Trust is leading the way
One major organisation that is beginning to lead the way in greater water sustainability is the National Trust which has installed several rainwater harvesters on its properties across the country. They have a large number of garden spaces that require significant amounts of water and having a rainwater harvesting system is the most economic and efficient way to ensure they get the supply they need. One such installation is at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire where two tanks have been installed at a cost of just over £11,000.
Domestic properties and rainwater harvesting
It might be something we are seeing more of, but will there be a time when every home has a rainwater harvesting system installed? Many large scale business and properties, particularly in areas like London and Manchester are beginning to take grey water and rainwater harvesting more seriously. Whilst there is little in the way of legislation in place at the moment, planning permission for new builds are looked on more favourably by councils if they include some sort of rainwater harvesting system.
Installing a system on your own property could well come at a significant cost – not only for the installation but also for the components such as the storage tank and there are currently no real incentives, as there are with renewable energy technologies, to make it worth everyone’s while. That may change in the future when resources become a little tighter but for now we can switch on that tap and help ourselves whenever we want.
But remember, your water supply is valuable and you should make savings wherever you can.
Find out more about harvesting rainwater.