current affairs environment

To think about next time you turn on a tap

This is what a drought looks like in Chad, central Africa:

This is what a drought looks like in England:

This year the much of south and central England is experiencing a drought. Chances are, the most serious consequence for most people is that they will have to wash their cars with a bucket rather than a hosepipe. If it continues into the summer, our thirsty suburban lawns will be less green. The kids might have to forego the paddling pool.

Farmers are going to have a tough year, but most people will hardly notice. Nobody’s going to starve to death or be displaced from their homes. There will be no UN feeding programmes for East Anglia, no DEC appeal, no refugee camps set up on the Welsh border.

One of the most overlooked privileges of living in a developed country is that we are sheltered from our environment. We live one step removed from it, and nature is mediated to use through our infrastructure. Although all our water ultimately comes to us as rainfall, we don’t experience it that way – we get it through our taps. Our experience of water is almost entirely divorced from the natural cycles that we depend on.

That is a huge blessing, and also something of a curse. Being disconnected from the source of our water means we take it for granted. We waste it and get into bad habits. It’s very easy to slip into patterns of water usage that are unsustainable. And then we’re surprised and indignant when nature doesn’t indulge us.

In Britain, the average person uses 150 litres a day. We all know we need to, but it starts with being aware of our water, being thankful for it, acknowledging and appreciating just how easily it comes to us.

8 comments

  1. I live in Australia and certainly aware of water and water shortages and i pay a good deal of money for what i use.

    1. Yes, other countries have a healthier relationship with the environment when it comes to water. What’s interesting about Britain is that the problem isn’t just low rainfall, but also a dense population. That combination means we have less water per head than many parts of the world that are considered very dry.

    1. The government already has the right to impose mandatory water metering in areas with water shortages, and yes, that’s a power they probably ought to use more often. Unfortunately, a lot of people would end up paying more if they had to pay for what they use, and that makes meters unpopular and ripe for tabloid opprobrium. It would take a bit of political nerve to do it, but it would be the right thing to do in many parts of the southeast.

    1. Edd, Just to let you know – this is the point that Jeremy was making but with a different choice of words. Glad to know you feel the same though.

  2. Wasting water unnecessarily has become a tendency in most of the people these days, especially in developed countries. If this water wastage rate continues, then the day is not very far when we will going to face a severe problem related to water scarcity. The photos shown of African people can be of Britishers as well in future if we not understand the precious value of water. should be in habit of all of us to avoid all such problems.

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