Rachel Fletcher, head of the Water Services Regulation Authority in the UK, has recommended that families switch from tap water for gardening and washing cars to using recycled bathwater and rainwater.
Fletcher says climate change, population growth, and construction are putting a strain on water supplies. “We recognize the longer-term challenges,” she told MPs. “We do as a sector need to think about transferring water from one region to another. And we have got to shift the frontier in the technology we are using in delivering water supplies.”
“The idea of using treated drinking quality water to water our gardens and wash our cars in the 21st century just doesn’t seem appropriate. As a regulator, it is something we will push the companies to innovate on,” she added. “We will work with government and other partners to do everything we can to make sure we have secure, affordable and an environmentally friendly approach to delivering future water supplies.”
Fletcher noted that plans to build thousands of homes between Oxford and Cambridge would seriously put a strain on water reserves in the region. Sir James Bevan, the head of the Environment Agency, added that water leakage reduction goals for large suppliers need to be tougher, and leakage should be lowered by at least 50 percent.
Doug Clarke, a spokesperson for Severn Trent, a UK water company, said, “Demand for water is massively up thanks to several weeks of extremely hot weather. While we have lots of water available and our reservoir levels are healthy and we’re putting millions of extra liters of water into the system, people are using water as fast as we can treat and pump it into the supply.
“This is particularly the case during peak demand in the morning and evenings when we want to ask customers to restrict their supply so we can avoid areas of low pressure.”
Environment minister Therese Coffey told MPs that people should aim to reduce their current 140 liters per day consumption of tap water by taking shorter showers. “It is actually a big use, so every little bit helps in trying to reduce the consumption of water,” she said.
Though the UK has been in the midst of a heatwave, that will end as thunderstorms spread from Scotland down to the south of England. There is also a tropical storm heading across the Atlantic, potentially bringing rain. These storms may be a good time to collect rainwater.