Population pressures could make water shortages a UK crisis

Although Britain is typically seen as a damp, rainy nation water shortages could be a very real environmental crisis as demand from a high population squeezed onto a small island puts pressure on this deceptively limited resource.

“Because it rains quite frequently in this country, there is not a public perception of water being in short supply,” said Terry Nash of the UK Rainwater Harvesting Association, who will be speaking at water tradeshow IWEX in April.

“In reality, water supplies are under varying degrees of stress throughout England south of the Humber, with rainfall per capita in the south-east being lower than in the Mediterranean.

“This problem will continue to grow in line with population growth, and with altered rainfall patterns caused by climate change.

“Although the environmental lobby groups get most excited by the prospect of global catastrophe caused by climate change, from a national perspective water shortages may be a crisis that arrives somewhat sooner.”

Rainwater harvesting is not a new idea, with archaeological evidence showing that we’ve been tapping into this easily-accessible water source for millennia.

But despite this, relatively few homes have a collection system.

Mr Nash told edie that retrofitting in existing homes could be a complex business due to the need for separate pipework and was best installed during a general refurb or when the homes were being built.

At industrial or commercial premises, however, retrofitting is often far easier, particularly where most of the water is to be used for purposes other than drinking or cooking.

“With non-domestic buildings, the pipework is usually much more accessible,” he said.

“Also, far more mains water can be saved in the workplace as the buildings often have large roofs, and most of the water used at work is non-wholesome.”

The modern rainwater harversting rig is a far cry from the traditional barrel tagged onto the garden shed, typically collecting and saving around 25,000 times as much water as a butt at the bottom of a drainpipe, with a hugely improved quality of water.

Those who want to hear how water shortages, building regulations, consumer awareness and the Code for Sustainable Homes is driving this sector can attend Mr Nash’s presentation at IWEX, part of SustainabilityLive!

Sam Bond

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