We need innovative ideas to save water

COMMUTING from North to West Yorkshire in 1995, I remember the convoys of tankers on the A64, ferrying water from one county to another.

It was a common sight for weeks as water shortages across the UK led to extreme measures being taken and water was moved to from areas with reasonable stocks to those in greater need. Things were so bad that water was even taken from Ilkley Lido.

This was all on top of hosepipe bans and advice given to the public on how to save water, including that of chief executive Trevor Newton, who announced that, in the interests of saving water, he had not had a bath or shower for three months .

Now, after a prolonged dry spell and record temperatures in the UK, we are once again heading in that direction, with hosepipe bans in place in parts of the country.

With climate change, there is clearly no end to this. Isn’t it time our government put some serious thought into conserving water. Hosepipe bans are all very well, but telling the public to stop watering their begonias isn’t going to touch the surface.

Following the 1995 crisis a grid was installed across the Yorkshire region, to enable water to be moved to areas in greatest need.

But from what I can see, not much else has been done across the UK. It’s time the movers and shakers came up with more innovative water capture and storage systems. I’m clearly no expert, but maybe additional reservoirs could be created using former quarries or disused mines. They could look at water recycling systems in new homes.

The Netherlands is way ahead of us in this field, recycling water in buildings, reducing consumption for both business and domestic customers.

Our government spends a fortune on harnessing solar power; it should channel the same finance and energy into saving water and investigating how best it can be achieved. Yet instead we get hosepipe bans and are told to spy on our neighbors and report them if they water their borders.

It won’t be long before we are told to share a bath with a friend, which the government suggested during the 1976 drought.

But of course when headlines speak of ‘drought’ it’s not in the same league as a real drought. In sub-Saharan Africa rain often does not arrive for months, sometimes years. Large areas of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are currently in the grip of a severe drought after consecutive rainy seasons failed, leaving millions of people facing starvation.

We really haven’t got anything to complain about with a few hosepipe bans. And maybe, once in a while, it does us good to appreciate what we’ve got.

Our homes are full of water-gobbling appliances, from dishwashers to washing machines and those enormous baths that are all the rage. Those ‘suffering’ a hosepipe ban can still use all of those things, and, crucially, we can still turn on the taps and drink fresh, clean water to our heart’s content – something that much of the world’s population cannot do.

We are very, very lucky. Water is such a precious resource, even in times of plenty we should use it wisely and not abuse it. It doesn’t cost anything to turn off the tap while cleaning your teeth, or flush the loo a little less. And do we really need to use a sprinkler on the lawn?

Businesses should be told to do their bit too. Water companies themselves lose vast amounts of water through leaks, which isn’t acceptable, and do we really need so many hand car washes? In some towns and cities every street seems to have one. We must have the cleanest cars on the planet.

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