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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dreaded Droughts, Furious Floods, the Humble Home and You.

In the UK we have largely ignored the drought warnings until they affect us directly. In an era where global warming was starting to gain more recognition in the 1970’s and 1980’s – when fear of drought hitting many countries in the richer northern hemisphere when in fact we have been hit by quite the reverse and suffered some terrible floods, nationally and internationally, with serious repercussions of many deaths, billions (currency) in damages and communities decimated.
Many people feel helpless and therefore ignore the potential flooding problems. Many people have no faith or trust that something can be done about floods and droughts. This is only natural human reaction in this day and age, as we feel microscopic in the face of 7 billion inhabitants. So perhaps a different perspective is offered through voluntary efforts, building control and planning initiatives. Small steps do have significant knock on effect and we can make strong steps individually and as a nationwide collective.
For all the problems we suffer in UK with flooding – make no mistake they could have been significantly worse. Due to the past efforts of thousands of people planting trees (We all know that symbiosis between trees and soils helps reduce flooding) and installing rain (water collection) butts the flooding risks have been reduced somewhat. We can all take this further forward! In hte UK there are over 200 000 homes who are at risk of not being able to get house/flood insurance due to being in high risk flood areas. With a national policy of water containment/re-use implemented we can help all these people and their homes.
The majority of UK, on a domestic level, do make a concerted effort to turn dripping taps off, have showers instead of baths, many believe their dishwashers use less water than cleaning dishes in the sink. Yet as opposed to just ‘water-saving’ perhaps we should additionally look at ‘water retention’.
Just to go slightly off topic …. Regardless of heating source – hot water will remain in the pipes until it is demanded again. If ALL hot water pipes in industry and domestic were super lagged/insulated – we would save millions of litres of water and millions of Megawatts of energy for heating, as there would be less time waiting for the water to heat up (the still water in the pipes having lost its heat as it has permeated through the un-insulated pipes) the taps are run continually before it is an acceptable warmth level to the end user.
This is very evident of people who rely upon older combi-boilers which heat up the water when you turn the taps on….. it does take a long time for the water to heat up, so when you are waiting for water to get hotter for sinks or showers – on a national scale (the 30-60 seconds we are waiting for the water to heat up) this results in millions of litres of water being utterly wasted. New regulations have demanded improvements in new combi-boiler efficiencies – so that is a positive step forward.
High demand households such as shared accommodation, offices, kitchens etc. prefer the combi-boiler performance to guarantee heat demands so it would be a prudent measure to be able to access high demand immediate heated water technologies. Are wood burners or micro-generation our best options for more sustainable heating systems?
Back onto the main topic of water retention: The media will relay to the public when impending droughts will result in lower reservoir levels, the expected hosepipe bans – thus reporting to us the impact upon agriculture and therefore the impact upon us insuccessive years, yet too many times we feel helpless and do nothing.
As we are driven towards becoming more innovative in our own households, an interest in allotments has grown again since the turn of the century. People are finding ways of saving home resources and money to become less reliant upon the existing system in these times of really bad economic times.
This is not just about drought, there is the other extreme of flooding – we have nothing, then there is too much. Many believe flooding occurs as a result of poor land management where so many thousands of trees, hedgerows have been removed, thus the soil loses its properties and nutrients to retain water and distribute evenly.
Supporting organisations like the woodland trust, or organic farms will go some way to reinvigorating soil properties and reducing flooding problems. Yet a national scale of policy implementation will be required to really support and re-establish natural ecological processes that have naturally dealt with minimizing flooding and drought.
What we can do though is relatively easy. Please consider this small step and it’s massive collective positive impact. Use any search engine and it will tell you we have approximately 30 millionhouses in the UK. Basic statistics state that in England and Wales we have 22.5 million houses Scotland and Northern Ireland easily take us past 30 million in housing stock numbers.
So what?
30 million houses with a 40 litre Rainwater butt will collect: 1 200 000 000 (1.2 billion) litres of water.

30 million houses with a 100 litre Rainwater butt will collect 3 000 000 000 (3 billion) litre of water.
A couple of billion litres of flood water, left uncollected, could wreak enough havoc in any town/city – enough to warrant attention to further flood reductions methods. How unrealistic is this? If every building in UK could hold an additional 100 litres of [rain] water in storage – this would drastically reduce flooding AND offer us a free water resource in periods of severe drought like the UK suffered in April 2011.
A 100 litre capacity water butt or water container would be approximately 2 metres high and half a metre wide in diameter – so could comfortably be placed on the back wall of majority of houses adjacent to the guttering.
The balance is assured. With such a national combined prolific level of water storage, the UK could be better prepared for further droughts and floods to come.
What can you do?

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