Why we need to conserve water and how to do it

River Kennet dry riverbed

In 2012/13 the upper River Kennet dried up (pictured above) and many fish died, let’s not see this happen again. The more water we use in our homes and businesses, the less flows in our rivers and streams. It’s estimated that an extra 1.9 million people are due to move into the Thames Water region by 2045 rising to an extra 3.6 million by 2100. This, combined with climate change, means the company has predicted there will be a shortfall of 350 million litres of water a day between the amount available and the amount needed by 2045 if no action is taken. By 2100, this is predicted to increase to 650 million litres a day.

Summer 2023

Action for the River Kennet has an ongoing appeal to help our precious streams and rivers.
1. Reduce your water consumption, to leave more water to reach our rivers
2. Only the three Ps (poo, pee and paper) should go down your loo (no chemicals, paints, oils or fat should go down your drain, sink or loo).

Thames Water has top tips for gardeners to help them save water while still growing beautiful blooms this summer:

  • Don’t water when the sun’s out and temperatures are hottest to minimise the water evaporating. Water in the mornings if you can as evening watering encourages the slugs and snails to come out at night.
  • Add an organic mulch such as bark or wood chip around new plants, it acts like insulation to stop evaporation and feeds the soil
  • Collect rainwater in a water butt or other container to use on the garden on dry days. Rainwater is better for plants than tap water anyway.
  • Use a watering can instead of a hose or sprinkler – A sprinkler can use as much water in half an hour as the average family of four uses in a whole day!
  • Plants adapt to being given less water, the soil doesn’t have to be wet all the time, think of your soil like a pint glass, as long as it’s half full, everyone’s happy, it doesn’t have to be full all the time.
  • Water less often but well enough for the water to reach the roots. Pour a little over the roots and wait for it to sink in and then keep topping up. Otherwise the water spreads across surface of the soil, away from the roots.
  • Leave the lawn to go brown. Grass will sacrifice its leaves to save its roots in a dry spell and will soon bounce back after the rain comes so doesn’t need “keeping alive” with lots of water. Although a brown lawn doesn’t look as pretty as a green one, once some rains comes it will quickly go green again, and by having a brown lawn you’re just showing your neighbours that you’re doing your bit to save water!
  • Use a bucket in the sink or shower to capture water as it heats up. This can be used to water indoor and outdoor plants, to flush the loo or to clean patios and garden furniture.

October 2022

It may be autumn and we may have had some rain but we mustn’t forget that we are still in a drought and a hosepipe ban. Here is an important message from ARK (Action for the River Kennet):

“We are in drought and yet water consumption in the Kennet Valley is above normal. Thames Water is still failing to reach its leakage targets, but we can all do the right thing as individuals playing our own part in reducing our water usage and these changes in our habits need to be long-term. For example only run a dishwasher or washing machine when full. Reuse water when possible, adhere to the current hosepipe ban.

Spread the word – talk to family, work colleagues and friends about being water efficient to help preserve the river. Do they know they live or work by an internationally rare chalk stream and have they made the connection of where their water comes from?

The further into drought we go, the fewer restrictions to protect the environment there are. Thames Water has applied to the EA for a Drought Permit at Axford. This will mean that temporarily the water company will legally be able to double the amount of water they abstract from the chalk aquifer. The chalk aquifer is the chalk below the soil and it is the water here, known as groundwater that is where the water comes from that keeps the Kennet flowing.

Due to the lack of rain over many months to recharge the chalk aquifer groundwater levels are below normal and notably low across Thames Water’s supply area, with exceptionally low levels in the upper Kennet.

We believe Thames Water’s efforts to manage demand has been insufficient, evidenced by the above average water consumption for the time of year. Opportunities to raise awareness have been missed. For example, a water bill received on 22 October 2022 contains no reference to either a temporary use ban or a drought.”

Summer 2022

Dry weather and high water use during summer can have an impact on water resources for future generations, while on especially hot days when water is in high demand, water companies can struggle to treat it and pump it to taps fast enough, leading to low pressure and sometime no water for short periods.

Waterwise.org.uk have lots of tips for saving water in the bathroom, the kitchen, the garden and in what we eat and the clothes we buy.

Water Crisis in the South of England

Water efficiency manager, Andrew Tucker, said: “We know a lot of people have taken up gardening in the last year as something to do during the pandemic and we saw water-use rocket as more of us cared for plants and veggies at home. Our gardens need water to survive just like we do but by watering at the right time of day, in the right way, we can all keep them thriving in a sustainable way.

“Even when river and groundwater levels are OK we can’t always get it through the system at the same pace customers are using it when demand suddenly goes up in hot dry spells.

“Being as water-efficient as possible in the garden, and collecting rain water in butts to water with, helps us get through the summer as well as protecting the local water environment including precious chalk streams, now and for the future. There is also the added benefit for anyone on a meter as using less will keep their bills down.”

It’s estimated that an extra 1.9 million people are due to move into the Thames Water region by 2045 rising to an extra 3.6 million by 2100. This, combined with climate change, means the company has predicted there will be a shortfall of 350 million litres of water a day between the amount available and the amount needed by 2045 if no action is taken. By 2100, this is predicted to increase to 650 million litres a day.

To avoid this shortfall Thames Water is repairing thousands of leaks a week and supporting its customers to use less water by rolling out smart meters. Its water resources plan also includes proposals for a new reservoir near Abingdon, transferring water from the Midlands and using treated wastewater in the drinking water cycle.

For more water saving advice check out thameswater.co.uk/watersmartcampaign or visit the Royal Horticultural Society website for planting and gardening tips.

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