Not Just a Problem for the Developing World
There is no doubt that Climate Change is here. When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s we had seasons. Winter was winter. Summer was summer. Spring was spring. Autumn was Autumn. For certainly the last twenty years, possibly longer, the seasons seem to have fused or slipped, or both of those things. We have had as many warm winters as we have had disappointing summers. We have had excessive winter rainfall, and now the driest of summers. It is clear that industrial activity across the world has contributed to this change, and there is an overwhelming breadth of science to support that view.
I have been banging on about the real and present danger of water shortage for as long as I can remember. The Ethiopian famine that spawned Live Aid in 1985 highlighted the extreme of water shortage through drought and reminded us all that water is very much a finite resource in developing countries, but even back then we were accustomed using grey water for our plants and we have never owned a power washer so, excepting a few lazy moments when I took the car through a commercial car wash, it has always been washed with a couple of buckets.
When I wrote #DryTheLife in 2016 the need to conserve water was already firmly embedded, and while its imagery mainly describes the irony of drought in the shade of desalination plants in Africa, it also hints at the impact of our own usage on this vital and exhaustible resource. So when that same year I learned of a neighbour having their roof washed, I felt a deep sense of frustration that humankind is simply not getting the message.
Millions of gallons of water are wasted in this country every day, rain or shine. There is system waste, commercial waste, and consumer waste. The water companies that were privatised by Margaret Thatcher are frequently hauled over the media coals for their inability to reduce leakage from our water mains, but this was also a systemic problem when they were in public ownership. While the level of leakage remains wholly unacceptable, it is also convenient for successive governments and their poodle media to lay blame at the doors of private industry.
Commercially much has been done around the world to reduce water consumption in production processes but the picture is still clouded by those companies who continue to be profligate in its use. The blame for the continuing pollution of water courses is largely to be placed at the doors of agriculture and industry, and the water shortages I’m talking about refer to clean, safe drinking water. That is what the human race needs.
Here in the UK, we continue to think water shortage is someone else’s problem. We are unable to understand that because the country has suffered a number of severe floods in recent years, that water as a commodity is running short. This is not the only summer since the fabled heatwave of 1976 that we have been threatened with hosepipe bans. In 2016, our own Environment Agency conceded that the water courses of South East England were drier than parts of Morocco. London is a drier city than Istanbul. Worldwide there have been severe droughts in California, South Africa, and Australia. Water shortage is very much a problem for the First World.
Floods are not only caused by excessive amounts of water falling from the sky. If you pour water down a clean plastic drainpipe it will run fast because there is little or no resistance, no blockages or absorption points along the way. If you fill that pipe with loam, it will largely be held back until the loam becomes saturated. That is crudely how deforestation contributes to raging lowland floods.. The removal of trees and their absorptive root systems from highland areas means that water is free to flow downhill. One large tree can lift 100 gallons (500 litres) of water out of the ground and into the atmosphere in a single day. A small power washer uses 500 litres per hour.
“So when you cash you shares, or turn the tap upstairs” consider how you use water in your own household, and what more you can do to minimise its use. Between 60% and 70% of our bodies are made up of water, so the need to conserve it is a responsibility none of us can afford to ignore.
Buy Dry The Life at https://johnreed.bandcamp.com/album/dry-the-life-ep