The A-Z of Recycling Water

Wasting water is financially damaging as well as environmentally unsound. Nick Peers reveals how to save money and do your bit for the planet

Copyright BBC Countryfile magazine, and reproduced with kind permission of the editor.

Water is an increasingly precious commodity, and we’re all wasting far too much of it. We might complain about the fact it always seems to rain in the UK, but the fact is there’s less water to go around than you might think. London receives less rainfall than the likes of Dallas, Rome and Madrid, yet its inhabitants consume up to a third more water than other European cities.

By 2025 it’s estimated that two-thirds of the planet’s inhabitants could be living in water-stressed areas, and that won’t just trigger conflict over a resource we currently take for granted, it’ll mean misery and shortages for millions. And if you think Britain will be spared, think again – our water reserves are at their lowest levels for decades, and we currently import more than half the water we need to live our lives.

Hidden water

The average Briton consumes 150 litres of water at home during the day, but like your carbon footprint, your actual demand for water far outstrips that which you knowingly consume. Waterwise has published a report called “Hidden Water” that reveals just how much water goes into the production of the food, drink and other materials we consume on a daily basis. Did you know that a burger and pint at lunchtime requires the equivalent amount of water to fill a duck pond?

65 per cent of the daily estimated consumption of 3,400 litres per person is required to produce our food and drink – the single pint of beer requires 170 litres of water, but it’s the beef burger that swallows up the bulk of this daily amount: it’s estimated that just 150 grams of beef requires 2,400 litres of water to produce, and that simply covers the life of the cow, not its subsequent processing, packaging and transport. And it’s not as if we’re living within our means – it’s estimated that Britons import about 70 per cent of the water we consume from other countries, which is clearly unsustainable going forward.

One-third of humans already live in areas where water is a scarce commodity – “if present levels of consumption continue, two-thirds of the global population will live in areas of water stress by 2025,” says Joanne Zygmunt of Waterwise. “Water is both finite and shared. We have to optimise the use of our water; we have to use every drop efficiently. There is no other way.”

The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take now to cut your water consumption. Not only will you be doing your bit to protect an essential resource, you could find yourself shaving hundreds of pounds a year off your water bill too. Click here for the A-Z guide.

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