Governments need to wake up to future water resourcing

Getting people to be more aware of water efficiency in the home is still a major barrier, when water prices are relatively cheap, compared to the rest of Europe.  It would seem that only by regulatory pressure from the UK Government will we ever become more ‘aware’ and bring about real improvement that is going to be critical to our future.Providing an ever increasing population with clean drinking water, from what is a finite source is something that has to be addressed by governments world wide.

Some water companies in the UK are investing in infrastructure. However, simply transferring water from one part of the area or country to another, is not going to solve the long term problem, and authorities must take action now in order to reduce overall demand.

Building new and bigger reservoirs, and water transfer schemes, that will reduce vulnerability in the regions will have significant environmental impact.

In the UK, finding ways to involve the people is going to be critical.

Getting people to be more aware of water efficiency in the home is still a major barrier, when water prices are relatively cheap, compared to the rest of Europe.

It would seem that only by regulatory pressure from the UK Government will we ever become more ‘aware’ and bring about real improvement that is going to be critical to our future.

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Thoughts on the Water Bill following the Queen’s Speech

I agree with this piece in the New Civil Engineer, following the inclusion of the Water Bill in the Queen's Speech. The strategy needs a coherent approach and must include many facets of the water cycle, if it is to be successful and fully address the water shortages that will undoubtedly face the country

I agree with this piece in the New Civil Engineer, following the inclusion of the Water Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

The strategy needs a coherent approach and must include many facets of the water cycle, if it is to be successful and fully address the water shortages that will undoubtedly face the country in the future.

The government and the water companies need to address water losses, which must be rectified before any one individual can be expected to adopt other water saving initiatives, either in the home and industry, of which there are many.  It is the daily actions of individuals and companies that need attention and support as well as the more global measures.

Investment at a national level is important, but large unsustainable projects such as bigger reservoirs and water transfer schemes is only one aspect.

SuDs, water recycling, including wastewater re-use and the creation of additional water storage particularly in agriculture to name just a few, need to be included as part of any strategy going forward, and their significance cannot be overlooked.  To do so, would be like repairing the lock gate, but leaving the sluices wide open.

Water is farming’s most precious resource

The NFU is calling on the government to learn from recent droughts and recognise the importance of agriculture in its Water Bill

The NFU is calling on the government to learn from recent droughts and recognise the importance of agriculture in its Water Bill

The above Farm reservoirs can tackle droughts article in Farmers Weekly prompted me to write a blog post, in response to the NFU’s recommendations on the government’s Water Bill development.

I think any measure or initiative to conserve what is becoming such a valuable resource, should and needs to be supported, whatever form that that solution may take.  It is after all farming’s most precious resource.

The agricultural sector is a prime example of this where large areas of land, normally providing substantial run off in some cases, could be turned over to capture whatever rainfall exists, or with impounded rivers and re-used either on the farm itself or sold off to the grid or other landowners.

It is an initiative that will reduce the need in some cases to abstract groundwater at times of drought and also contribute significantly toward the alleviation of flooding in other areas.

It is, in effect an extension of the normal rainwater harvesting, and one that should attract the full support of the government.

There are many advantages of a holding reservoir on site, but careful consideration needs to be given prior to committing to any such scheme, and approvals with planning, (although there may be some permitted development rights), the Environment Agency, if an impounding / abstraction licence and/or EIA is required, and dependent upon the capacity and elevation above the existing ground level it will also come under the Reservoir Act.  Last but not least, there are the ecological considerations, although this may be considered to be improved once the reservoir is complete.

From personal experience, the data gathering can be rather prolonged, but it pays to get the Environment Agency involved at an early stage.  They can advise you of the necessary legislation that has to be satisfied, and generally tend to be very supportive and help you through the process.

Are you flushing money down the drain?

I recently gave a presentation to a local business club on the broader merits of water re-cycling including rainwater harvesting.  This is a synopsis of what was covered:

The collection and use of rainwater and greywater is widespread around the world.

Rainwater harvesting is common in less developed countries, where it can provide an important and low-cost primary water use.

The conservation of water is becoming increasingly important - nearly 40 per cent of water companies believe that demand for water will outstrip supply by 2030

The conservation of water is becoming increasingly important – nearly 40 per cent of water companies believe that demand for water will outstrip supply by 2030

In the UK it is currently being used to supplement or reduce the use of mains water.

It can vary from a simple attachment of a water butt connected to a downpipe, to a larger system with a centralized collection and treatment system serving a number of people.

Having said that, the demand for water has dipped over the last couple of years, the recession is also having an impact, but demand is projected to increase on this resource in the future, whilst the supply may be adversely affected by global factors such as climate change.

This results in an increasing need to use water more wisely.  Alongside this is the desire of water consumers to reduce costs. Together, these factors mean that conservation of water is becoming increasingly important.  Recent research has found that almost 40 per cent of water companies believe that demand for water will outstrip supply by 2030.

One of the claimed benefits of rainwater, and greywater systems is that they reduce the cost of mains water use.  The payback periods vary, depending upon several factors

The cost benefit analysis is particularly sensitive to assumptions regarding component and overall system lifetimes.

The main barrier to widespread adoption of domestic rainwater systems in the UK is the cost.

Because of the number of variables, it is difficult to suggest costs and paybacks for a typical domestic system, but it seems likely to be in excess of 20 years even in an optimum situation with no major equipment failures (which seems unlikely).  Therefore, at the present time, small plumbed rainwater systems are unlikely to be economically attractive if the financial value of water saved is the only consideration.  The best one may consider in a domestic situation is to break even, but again, it is dependent upon a number of factors which will vary with locations.

There is however a demand for systems from environmentally conscious consumers and those who may value rainwater more highly than mains water.

Other drivers for using rainwater systems may be related to development and planning issues.  Some local authorities may insist that developers consider rainwater systems, whether to help balance local water resource demands, or to help balance local runoff.  This is normally linked to sustainability issues and Local Agenda.

Rainwater use should always be considered a part of a water conservation strategy.  Few buildings have exhausted the possibilities for conventional low cost measures such as taps that reduce flow, low-volume-flush WCs and waterless urinals.  Reduced water consumption, by using water efficient appliances, will allow more end-use demand to be met.  A fixed volume of rainwater can either serve the same end use more times, or serve different end uses as well.  Using water efficient appliances in combination with a rainwater system may make it more viable for some end users.

Having established an interest in rainwater and greywater use, it is vital to carry out an in-depth investigation on their viability, a comprehensive water audit.  It is usually most cost-effective for businesses to first implement water efficiency measures including better water management practices, such as repairing leaks, and not leaving taps dripping and fitting water-saving products. Some businesses may not find it cost-effective to go beyond this, but those with higher water usage may find that utilising water re-use in addition to implementing water efficiency can bring financial and other benefits.

Benefits of rainwater and greywater use include water savings for the end user and the potential to reduce their costs.  Reduced pressure on water resources and the supply infrastructure will only be realised with widespread uptake and this is unlikely at present.

Uncertainty over the volume of water saved, water quality, lack of design guidance, health risks and user perception, have all been identified as barriers that need to be addressed for rainwater and greywater systems.  The main barriers are though economic and allied to this system reliability.

At the present time, rainwater and greywater systems are economically viable where water consumption is above average, and there is sufficient rainfall.

In general, greywater systems are unlikely to be economically attractive where mains water is readily available but in specific circumstances could be economic, but this needs to be evaluated carefully case-by-case.  As systems evolve, develop and improve in the future, they will become more reliable and hence, economical.

South West Water fined after harmful chemicals leaked into East Looe River

The cost of water contamination is never just financial

Drinking recycled sewage water

An article in the Guardian asked whether we would be happy to drink recycled sewage water. Little do most people know or perhaps care to consider, we already have been doing so, for quite a long time.

An article in the Guardian asked whether we would be happy to drink recycled sewage water. Little do most people know or perhaps care to consider, we already have been doing so, for quite a long time.

Last week, an article in The Guardian asked whether we would be happy to drink recycled sewage water. Perhaps little do most people know, we already have been doing so, for quite a long time.

Below are my thoughts on The Guardian’s water drinking poll.

So what’s new?? It might not be widely appreciated, but we, at least residents along the River Thames, and particularly London have been drinking recycled wastewater for decades.  It’s nothing new, but may need to become more commonplace if the needs of mankind are going to be satisfied in future.  Providing it is treated to a sufficiently high quality and meets the required drinking water standard set down, then there is no reason whatsoever why this practice should not be an accepted solution nationwide and supplement the ever increasing demands on our scarce water resources.

The challenge of conserving water for future generations is more relevant than ever before, and is crucial to the future of mankind.  Recent research has found that almost 40% of water companies believe that demand for water will outstrip supply by 2030.

Whatever the solution, recycling wastewater is going to play a vital part, and needs to be looked at as a valuable raw material rather than just ‘waste,’ and education is going to play a vital role with consumers whether it be in the home or commercial use.

It doesn’t have to be ‘black’ water, grey water and rainwater have their part to play as well in satisfying the ever increasing demand.  However, it is essential that consumers are made aware of the precious resource, and how it can be best used to satisfy the demand in the future.

And I see from Twitter that good work is already starting on the education of future consumers, with “sewage soup” being served up in the classroom, at Winton Primary School – a clever little exercise from Wessex Water.  More on this here

Become an agent of change: my first blog post!

The challenge of conserving water as a resource for future generations is more relevant than ever before.  Even the smallest things make a difference, like collecting rain water with a water butt in the garden

The challenge of conserving water as a resource for future generations is more relevant than ever before. Even the smallest things make a difference, like collecting rain water with a water butt in the garden

Water is a valuable and natural resource.  However, “of all the water on earth, less than 3% is fresh, and all but 3/1000s of that is locked up in glaciers and ice caps, or is too deep in the earth to retrieve.  The fresh water available in rivers, lakes and accessible groundwater is increasingly polluted.  A lot of available and emerging techniques is making it possible to increase radically the productivity of water.”

The challenge of conserving water as a resource for future generations is more relevant than ever before, and is crucial to the future of mankind.  Recent research has found that almost 40% of water companies believe that demand for water will outstrip supply by 2030.

Even the smallest things make a difference, like putting a water butt in the garden to collect rain.  Eventually of course, we’ll have to do much more than this.

No-one should ever think that personal action can’t solve problems, and two measures that have the potential to aid water conservation in this way are the use of rainwater and greywater in and around buildings.

The cost and benefits can be difficult to forecast reliably even in the short term.  Changes in water consumption and patterns of use, mains supply and sewage treatment charges the variability of rainfall or greywater arising and many other factors will influence the calculations.

In the longer term, increasing demand for water together with concerns about non-sustainable abstraction and climate change increase water prices and improve the cost benefits of rainwater and greywater use.

Other initiatives will have to be considered if we are going to satisfy the demand, improving water efficiency, reusing more rain and grey water and recycling of wastewater, amongst others.

Education is going to play a vital role with consumers whether it be in the home or commercial use.  Wasteful consumer behaviour is seen as one of the biggest barriers to conservation. It is essential that consumers are made aware of the precious resource and how it can be best used to satisfy the demand in the future.