Everyone has heard of the drought problems in California and there are times when the UK’s water supplies are regionally severely stretched.
I was chairing a conference in Birmingham earlier this week and ESOS (the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme for those who were exploring Antarctica these last several months) was being debated when the inspirational ideas started to spring up and flow…
I thought I’d float the idea of there being a Water Saving Opportunities Scheme (WSOS) as a very necessary addition to the regulatory portfolio. There is a screeching need to reduce the amount of water wasted by the human population and capture and use what’s left far more efficiently.
WSOS with teeth?
It should be mandatory for all to evaluate how they use water, understand how they can reduce wastage and improve efficiency on precisely the fundamentally sensible which ESOS advocates.
But the regulation must have teeth – severe penalties for not implementing identified measures.
OK, so if you weren’t very taken by ESOS you’re unlikely to fall off your chair at the prospect of WSOS but, as in California, there is a sense of urgency, particularly given the cost and relative difficulty of shunting large volumes of water around the UK.
The causes of this – and why it’s so important – forgetting the obvious and debatable issues around climate change, are fairly simple. Increasing population is the greatest, e.g. California’s population has grown from around two million to 38 million in the course of the last century. If anything is unsustainable, surely it is that.
Compare it with the mass migrations over a similar period into the South East corner of England. Population hasn’t re-located to areas with very high rainfall. Should they all have gone to Manchester or Scotland or Ireland where they’ve got loads of spare water supply capacity?
Perhaps water supply should be a factor when politically looking at building new human settlements – as with the “garden cities” and the currently mooted new “sustainable” towns.
Agriculture and industry clearly have a major role in ensuring they consider water when introducing, or economically considering, new crops and processes. Introducing seriously water-intensive functions to areas with massive infrastructure – and indeed weather – issues are highly irresponsible but it’s too late to cry wolf when established cultures have developed.
Who polices any new regulation is crucial – the issues are sufficiently important to warrant necessary resource to ensure mandatory compliance. Initially, as with ESOS, this may be around installation of meaningful metering which will instantly identify most major leaks, the principal cause of wastage.
Periods of drought always highlight inadequacies in infrastructure and management so it’s important to consider all the corrective issues on a planned basis and to mitigate them before they occur and create even greater problems.
A long-term, master plan is needed to map out all these changes can be effected rapidly.
At the end of the day does anyone really care if lawns turn brown? Of far more concern is for humans and animals to die of thirst……..
In my view, we need WSOS now so that much faster progress on supply and demand efficiency can be made, waiting for the new deregulation of the water industry in 2017 is way behind the pace and inviting further problems.
Mervyn Bowden is the Managing Director of Intuitive Energy Solutions Ltd.