How to Prevent a Looming Water Shortage in the UK

Even with all the rain, the UK is running out of water. England’s Environmental Agency is predicting a water crisis in the next 25 years — as demand for water outgrows the supply.

Down the Drain

The looming water crisis is less about population growth and more about wanton consumption in the modern era. In the 1950s, the average UK resident consumed less than 80 litres of water a day. Today, consumption has doubled — with the average resident using more than 140 litres each day.

In the National Audit Office’s (NAO) latest Water Supply and Management report, it stated that the UK is consuming an excess of 480 million litres of water per day — forcing water companies to tap into groundwater to meet the demand.

Six hundred million litres of water are further lost from the effects of climate change and the drier weather it brings. The NAO predicts that the amount of water available for abstraction will drop by 1 billion litres by 2045. The rains have proven insufficient to meet the growing demands on water and the dry spells in May are becoming longer and longer.

Reducing Water Consumption

taking a hot bath

Reducing a household’s water consumption to the levels of the ones in the ‘50s can be difficult but not impossible. The UK has already implemented special marking on products that uphold higher standards on water efficiency — and switching to these products can reduce a home’s consumption by 20 to 30 percent.

Diligent water use when showering (cutting your shower time to less than 4 minutes) can cut water consumption by almost half — especially if every member of the household adheres to it. Greywater systems can also increase a home’s water efficiency significantly. These systems will collect used water from your showers, laundry, and sinks. Stored water can be used to water the lawn, flush the toilet, clean the house or the car. Greywater systems typically cost around £4,000-£5,000, and they can cut your water bill by 50 percent. While the savings on your water bill might not be enough to warrant an installation, it can prevent your household from wasting water during the driest months of the year.

Making Use of the Rain

The UK is famous for its rainy weather and households can make use of the rain as an alternative water supply. Rainwater harvesting systems can collect hundreds of thousands of litres of water each year, reducing a household’s demand on the existing water supply. A harvesting system with built-in underground storage tanks can cost £2,000-£3,000. Harvesting systems work best with corrugated roofing sheets — they direct water to the system and are less likely to accumulate dirt. Collected rainwater is untreated water, making it unsuitable for cooking and drinking. However, it can still be used the same way greywater is used.

The UK is on the brink of a water crisis and its citizens are mostly unaware. Households will need to cut their consumption significantly and the government must impose stricter guidelines on water use if the crisis is to be averted.