Water is essential to human existence, to our food and health, to industry and agriculture, and to all the ecosystems on which we all depend.
There are many different issues impacting on water and the way we use it, and many are complex and interconnected. Clean water is often thought of as a free resource, and taken for granted in this country, but it is indeed precious and its abundance is threatened. So what can we all do to ensure sufficient good quality water is available for our families and communities, now and into the future?
Climate change means that higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable, weather conditions are affecting the availability and distribution of rainfall, river flows and groundwater. Add to this the fact that demand for water is increasing every year, means that we are heading for a water crisis, not just globally but here in Sussex. Sussex could be facing water shortages in just ten years’ time. Southern Water has forecast that one-third of its water sources could be lost to climate change within 25 years, while population growth is expected to rise by 15 per cent during that time, increasing demand.
Most of our water is obtained from surface water sources and through ground abstraction, but if too much water is abstracted from the ground, this can lead to physical changes and a reduction in biodiversity.
We need to consume less water and use it more wisely. The National Audit Office says that water consumption nationally needs to be reduced by 480 million litres a day within 25 years in order to stabilise abstraction and bring it back to sustainable levels. The amount of water used by the average household in the UK has increased by 70% since 1985, in Seaford, each person uses on average 136 litres of water a day. Some companies, such as Southern Water, are encouraging consumers to work towards reducing consumption to 100 litres a day by 2040.
To do this we need to:
Water meters have been demonstrated to save water and can also save households significant amounts of money. A water meter can help you save on energy bills too, as saving water may also mean heating less of it which will help reduce energy bills and your carbon footprint, in addition to the original savings on your water bill. If you don’t have a meter yet you can apply here.
The problem: Our water supplies in Seaford comes from chalk aquifers (a layer of chalk beneath the surface of the earth that holds water like a sponge). However nitrate pollutants are increasingly affecting these water supplies with over 70 per cent of boreholes in the South Downs area showing rising levels of nitrate due to from run-off from roads or fertilisers leaching into the ground. The problem of pollution from run-offs is worsened by heavy rain storms which are becoming increasingly frequent due climate change.
The Aquifer Partnership (TAP) has set up a £500,000 project to help protect the chalk rocks in the South Downs from increasing pollution.
The idea is to create rainscape projects that will use plants to collect pollutants from runoff from roads, naturally cleansing water before it returns to the ground. The Partnership will also call on farmers to use cover crops, which are plants designed to soak up nitrates while improving soil quality.
You can do your bit for aquifers by not using pesticides and artificial fertilisers in your garden or allotment, and maybe even consider creating a rain garden. Rain gardens are designed to mimic the natural water retention of undeveloped land and to reduce the volume of rainwater running off into drains. Cutting down on car use will also help greatly. Road run-off is the third highest cause of water pollution in the UK. Cars leak oil and petrol, their tyres and break-pads wear down leaving heavy metals and microplastics on the road. This pollution washes off the road when it rains and down the drains, many of which lead to aquifers supplying our drinking water.