The Environmental Agency has warned that much of England could see significant water shortages by 2050. A combination of population growth and climate change bringing hotter and drier summers are pushing the country towards what Sir James Bevan referred to as the ‘jaws of death’.
Whilst the water companies need to work to reduce the amount of water leaking from the network and increase capacity with new reservoirs and desalination plants, the Environment Agency has warned that we will all need to play our role and reduce the amount of water we use and waste.
Water is also intrinsically linked to energy use but most of us underestimate the amount of energy water companies need, to treat and pump water into homes. Scottish Water is the largest user of electricity in Scotland.
Reducing the amount of water you use can reduce your water bills (if you’re on a water meter), reduce the impact on your local environment, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by using less energy to pump, heat and treat the water.
Water Footprint and Virtual Water
In a UK household, the average daily water use for washing and drinking is about 150 litres per person, but we consume around 30 times as much in ‘virtual water’. This is the water used in production of foods, textiles, and nearly everything we consume. Taking virtual water into account, each of us soaks up 4,645 litres a day.
Different diets have different water footprints. A meat and dairy based diet consumes approximately 5,000 litres of virtual water a day while a vegetarian or plant-based diet uses half that at around 2,500 litres.
It’s also important to bear in mind that huge amounts of the food and natural materials we consume are grown in drier areas of the world, where water resources are already stressed and likely to worsen with climate change. Modern patterns of consumption are leading to the death of bodies of water in some of the world’s poorest regions.