On average a person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day equating to almost two full bathtubs of water per person per day, residents of Copenhagen use less than 110, a saving of 14,600 litres a year.

Using water is the easiest thing in the world. We turn on the tap, it arrives in an instant. It’s the same for homes, businesses and industry. But using it wisely is a different matter altogether.

An infinite resource?

England’s water bodies, all the way from mountain springs and underground aquifers cascading down through pools and estuaries to our beaches, should be a balanced natural system. Our health, and the health of our wildlife, depends on the health of that system.

But as the population grows, our demand for water is growing. So what happens when you take a lot more water out of that system for drinking, bathing, toilet flushing, garden watering and other activities?

The life is sucked out of the system

Taking too much water out of a system is known as over-abstraction. The symptoms of over-abstraction are grim if you’re a fish needing a clean stream in which to spawn, or if you’re a picnic fan looking for the perfect riverside idyll:

  • Devastating declines in water quality.
  • Dried up rivers, killing fish, and other wildlife.
  • Increases in the number of invasive species.
  • Fewer water insects.
  • Increased sedimentation clogging up rivers.
  • Warmer waters, which carry less oxygen-important for the survival of fish and many aquatic insects
  • Physical barriers to prevent the movement of spawning fish.
  • Connections between water bodies and surrounding habitats disappear
  • Higher costs for water treatment

So what does a system with wise water use look like?

  • Our water environment is protected from damaging water abstractions and is teeming with life.
  • Our landscapes and wetlands are managed to make them resilient to droughts.
  • Water systems are managed so they recharge naturally.
  • Water is priced fairly, so everyone can understand its true value and scarcity.
  • Awareness is raised so that everyone instinctively saves water wherever possible.
  • Investment is made to the ageing water infrastructure to reduce leakage and improve drainage.
  • The importance of good water management and water use is fully integrated into education and best practice advice.
  • The ecological costs of water abstraction are fully accounted for when decisions are made about land use and building developments.

And is this ideal system possible? Of course! And with your support, we can make it a reality. This does not mean anyone will miss out- in fact everyone benefits from a healthy system because it will buffer us against climate change and population growth, so our future water supply is more resilient than if the system is left unchanged.

“No water, no life, no blue, no green” – Sylvia Earle