At the annual Sustainability Conference: "Water shortage - the 'here and now' Climate Change issue" held in Hove Town Hall on 20 April, delegates heard how changing behaviour and improving efficiency are the best ways to tackle the water shortage problem.
Speakers Cllr Simon Burgess, Rt. Hon Michael Meacher, Jacob Tompkins, Director of Waterwise, Rupert Clubb, Sussex Area Manager for the Environment Agency and Niall Mills, Asset Director for Southern Water placed the current drought in an international, regional and local context, whilst local case studies illustrated what can be achieved through improved efficiency and design.
Delegates heard how aquifer depletion is seen as one of three potentially devastating global problems alongside HIV and crop land shrinkage. Climate change, population shifts, demographic changes (smaller households) and rising consumption has led to a situation where water shortages are set to become the norm rather than the exception.
However, the key message delivered by the conference is that the answer is not necessarily about engineering, technology and building more reservoirs, but about addressing demand, sustainability and efficiency. For example, de-salination could provide 1-2% of the region's water needs, but would cost 100 times more than water supplied by aquifers. Similarly, pumping water from the North would cost between £20 and £30 million for every 20 kilometres it is transported.
It is clear that both individuals and business organisations have a role to play. The recommended water requirement per person per day is 50 litres, yet average UK consumption is 160 litres per person per day.
Brighton & Hove City Council and Southern Water (www.brighton-hove.gov.uk www.southernwater.co.uk) list measures which can be taken to reduce demand including turning off the tap whilst brushing your teeth, taking 5 minute showers, harvesting rain water and using low or dual flush toilets or installing a Save-a-flush (hippo) bag which will save 1 litre of water each time the toilet is flushed.
Water conservation also makes sense financially. Effective water management can save companies large sums of money. Where no previous attempt has been made to save water, financial savings of up to 20% can be achieved at little or no extra cost. Savings of over 70% of total water costs have been known, with the initial financial outlay recovered within a year.
Southern Water's "Small changes big savings" is a comprehensive guide on how to reduce water use in business and save money on water bills. It contains a do-it-yourself water audit, a list of manufacturers and suppliers of water efficiency products, along with further useful contacts. A copy can be downloaded from www.southernwater.co.uk
Contributions from the conference will go towards shaping a Water Action Plan for the city. Further details and a report of the conference will be available soon on the sustainability pages of the Council's website http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=b1114905
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