Sunday, 24 April 2011

Water water everywhere?

Aurora at Island Dreaming

April showers bring May flowers, or so the poem goes. Except that it hasn't rained here for the past two and a half weeks. This, coupled with temperatures that (as our national newspapers love to keep reminding us) currently rival the Mediterranean, has come to a head over the holiday weekend in the form of long traffic queues heading towards the coast as the whole country tries to make good use of the fine weather.

The garden isn't so keen on what is shaping up to be the hottest April on record. The container garden in our yard is particularly thirsty and our veg plot is requiring a few visits a week just to water. The clayey soil, where it has been left unmulched and uncultivated, has turned to rock hard lumps that throw dust into the air whenever the wind blows. After a wet winter, I didn't expect that I would be dealing with a lack of water so soon.

Our blue planet is remarkably dry, in human terms. According to these UN statistics, just 2.5 % of all of the water resources on earth are freshwater - and of this 2.5%, 70% is locked up in ice and snow cover. We are exploiting the freshwater resources we do have at an alarming rate, extracting groundwater at far greater pace than it is being replenished. At the same time we are degrading the quality of those meager resources we do have in ever more creative ways - salination, acidification and industrial and agricultural effluent are some of the problems that your region may or may not be facing.

Next month we will be installing a couple of water butts on our plot. Hopefully it will rain and they will have a chance to fill up over the coming months. If we have a very dry summer, we can but hope that a hose pipe ban will not be enforced; and that the water butts will have a chance to fill over winter ready for next years growing season. We will be collecting and spreading mulch with abandon over the next few weeks and using the cooler evenings to wander to our plot and water, all in the hope of reducing evaporation and runoff. We might even find a way to capture and filter some of the grey water generated by our household and use it in the garden. These are all tangible actions we can take to conserve the water resources we have and ensure the garden survives a potentially scorching summer.

Much harder to contemplate is the embodied or 'virtual water', in effect the water footprint, of all of the products that we consume. Agriculture takes the biggest share of our annual global freshwater budget at about 70%, followed by industrial production. The domestic consumption of almost 7 billion people accounts for just 8% of global usage. These are issues that clearly cannot be solved by individual action; but reducing unsustainable levels of personal consumption and waste will obviously contribute to the solution.

Back in my part of the UK, this summer could be a complete washout, a repeat of the flooding and holiday-ruining rain storms of recent years. Or it could be very hot and very dry. It might mercifully be somewhere in between. It will certainly be a summer of our household being more mindful of how we use yet another resource that we have otherwise been taking for granted.

Are you water conscious? What issues are being faced in your region? What steps do you take to conserve water?


David said...

Aurora, there are water issues in all parts of the globe. So far in my part of the USA (Nebraska), we have had nice gentle rains in April. Other parts of the country have a totally different issues. There is flooding in east and south east, fires in the deep south, and tornado season is cranking up in the midwest.

For my part in water conservation, I have a automatic gravity feed watering system that will hold 1200 gallons of water. I just integrated my first rain barrel (water butt) into the system yesterday. I estimate it will harvest about 180 gallons of water from a one inch rain. I could have a problem as the barrel is only a 40 gallon barrel. My only hope is that the hose that connects it to the main tank will drain fast enough to allow the harvesting of all the water. It hasn't rained yet to test the system with real rain but hopefully it will happen soon.

Have a great water awareness day.

Nan Sheppard said...

We lived in rural Trinidad, West Indies, for many many years, so we are experts at water conservation. We collected rain water during the rainy season in enormous tanks, and during the dry season we were as stingy as hell.

-No toilet flushing until it becomes really necessary.
-No laundry unless you're desperate. Wear clothes more than once, except undies. Towels and sheets must go a week or two... or three.
-Attach hose to washing machine outlet, and run wash and rinse water onto needy plants.
-Allow non-essential plants to die back. Or just die.
-Turn off tap while brushing, soaping self and dishes etc.
-Fight bush fires by beating and backburning, NOT with precious water.
-Stand in a basin when you shower, and pour that water onto plants or use it to flush toilets.

Happy conserving!