Our region is seriously water stressed and our use of water is unsustainable; we are using far more than ever before. This article discusses the benefits of saving water for the environment, for local and global communities, for lowering our energy use, and most importantly, how saving ‘buckets’ of water can also save you ‘buckets’ of money!
Our unsustainable use of water
The average water use per person per day in the Anglian Water region is 146 litres.
To put this into context, that’s about three full tanks of petrol in your car, or a full bathtub for each of the 4.3 million people every day. Also bear in mind, this is an average amount; so, while some people use much less, others use significantly more. If you run a full bath each day or take a long shower daily, you are likely using much more.
Before Covid, our average daily use was 136 litres per person per day.Staying home caused our collective daily use to increase by 10 litres per person per day.
Interestingly, Colchester residents use 157 litres of water per person per day – the highest in the Anglian Water region.
Some of this water is wasted through things like inefficient appliances, dripping taps, leaky loos, and unnecessary excessive use of water.
Are we aware of the issue?
It’s interesting to understand how our behaviour has changed over time. In 1830, people used about 20 litres a day (7x less than we do today), and in 1960, they used 85 litres (nearly half the amount we use today).
Some of the biggest barriers preventing enough meaningful water saving may be because most people do not realise how much water they really use. Research carried out by Water UK in 2020, revealed that 46 percent of people believe their household uses under 20 litres a day. A further 17 percent believe they consume between 20 and 39 litres a day, while 15 percent think they use 40 to 59 litres.
If we are to avoid severe shortages in the future, we need to reduce our use to 128 litres per person per day by 2025.
Sharing our water with other communities and wildlife
Anglian Water supply over 1 billion litres of water every day to 2.5 million households and 110,000 businesses. This amount continues to grow as our regional grows, through development and population growth. Keeping up with this demand is a challenge, particularly when you factor in our low groundwater levels. Groundwater levels in parts of the east of our region are now lower than they have been in 30 years.
How climate and weather is affecting water availability
Not only does water use impact on communities and wildlife, it also takes huge amounts of energy to transport, clean and get to your tap. The more water we use, the more has to be processed, and the more energy is used. This means more greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. By saving water, we are helping to reduce the amount of energy we need to use.
The Anglian Water region is one of the driest regions in the UK, and our water is under pressure from population growth and climate change. Climate change, and the more extreme weather that comes with it, means that water supply is becoming more unpredictable than in years gone by. Despite the perception that it rains a lot, the Anglian Water region receives a third less rainfall than the rest of the UK. Tomorrow’s forecast is fewer raindrops, and more people.
The whole of Eastern England is now classified as ‘seriously water stressed’. It is short of water now, and if nothing changes, that shortage will get worse. There is not enough water to go round now reliably, nor to meet new demand for homes, for food or for energy, or to be resilient to the impact of climate change as it bites further and society adapts to it. Together with the now well-recognised climate and biodiversity crisis, there is also a water crisis today.Water Resources East, 2022
By 2045, our region will be in deficit by 146 million litres a day if nothing changes. By 2050, parts of the UK are expected to suffer from extreme drought.
Despite the torrential rain and flooding we see in this area, our ground water stores have limited supplies to see us through each year. Understanding the natural cycle of water and our weather systems is vital in understanding why this issue is so serious.
What you can do to help
Monitor and track your water use by registering for the Anglian Water ‘MyAccount’, then aim to reduce the amount your household is using to at least 128 litres per person per day.
There are plenty of water saving tips available online, including only running the washing machine and dishwasher on a full load, taking shorter showers and fewer baths, collecting rain-water in water butts.
A four-minute shower (the duration of one song) could save up to £120 per year and roughly 60 litres of water. If every home in the UK took one minute off their shower every day, it would save £215 million on our collective energy bills every year.
With the price of water relatively affordable to most in the UK, and the misconception that water is so readily available, there is currently little incentive to save it. It is, however, important to remember that while energy prices rise, we can make huge savings, not only on our water bills, but also on our energy bills, by using less water.