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8:40am Thursday 3rd May 2012 in Leader
One issue that the recent heavy rainfall has brought into sharp focus is how poor we are at managing this valuable resource.
There was a certain inevitability that once water companies had announced a hosepipe ban that incessant downpours would swiftly follow.
We fully understand that rain falling in spring is nowhere near as effective in filling the aquifers that are vital to maintain our water reserves as rain that falls during the winter months.
It is also no surprise to hear Government ministers warning of the possibility of standpipes reappearing in the streets if we have another dry winter.
But what is also clear is that we do not make as much use of the rain that is falling at present as we could do. Harvesting rainwater for use, not only in the garden, but more importantly in the home, does not seem to have risen high on any agenda.
And that is surprising as although Britain is commonly considered a ‘rainy’ country, the Environment Agency itself acknowledges that our water resources are under stress from a combination of factors, ranging from population growth which is leading to growth in overall water demand; population distribution and internal migration into areas with pressured water resources and distribution infrastructure and increasing seasonal weather variability, which is putting strain on existing water management facilities.
Probably the most obvious way of tackling so-called ‘water stress’ is to cut down on water use. But it does seem strange that we continue to use high-quality, increasingly costly, drinking water for lower-grade uses such as lavatory flushing and irrigation.
There is increasing interest in the use of alternative sources of water for these lower-grade uses, which in turn could reduce consumption of mains water.
The technology is tried and tested in continental Europe, particularly in Germany, and one of the possible benefits of our being behind the game is that any potential problems have been ironed out.
The UK market in rainwater harvesting has been growing rapidly in recent years, but is still not attracting the attention that it might.
With thousands of new homes planned to be built in Oxfordshire in the coming years — many bearing so-called ‘eco’ labels — perhaps we have a real opportunity to lead the way in helping to make better use of a vital resource.