Water

A closer look at water

It’s been such a wet winter that maybe we are all fed up with water but it’s worth having a closer look at the miracle that ensures water comes out of the tap when we turn it on.

It's quite hard to get your head round just how much water we get through in this country. Every day the water companies supply us with a total of 19bn litres, according to their trade association, Water UK. That means every year we collectively in the UK use a volume of water representing almost seven cubic kilometres. Just think for a moment the size of one cubic kilometre – it’s the equivalent of a large tank full of water that would cover the whole of Balls Wood and be 320m high and then imagine seven of them!

Magic process?

The companies receive about 60% of this volume in the form of our waste water from the sewers, and the process required to magic this back into drinking water predictably requires a lot of energy. And then they have to push it along 408,000 kilometres of pipes to return it back to us.

Water UK estimates that the industry currently uses about 2-3% of all the electricity purchased in the UK and produces about 0.5% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions - 4m tonnes of "carbon dioxide equivalents" (a measure used to express all greenhouse gases in terms of combined global warming potential).

That's a lot of head-numbing figures, but at a more personal level someone has now even calculated the carbon footprint of one litre of water. Don't worry, this isn't a call to stop drinking tap water in a bid to reduce your footprint. There are a few things higher up the to-do list than dehydrating yourself in the name of reducing emissions.

To try and set it in context the amount of cold water to fill a bath - about 150 litres - every day for a year, overall it would represent just 15kg of greenhouse gas emissions. That's about what the average car produces over 80 kilometres. But note this doesn't include the energy needed to heat the water.

Save water

So, whilst the arguments for saving water from an energy perspective are extremely valid, it is far more important to save water just because it is a precious natural resources. What is a waste - however you look at it - is that 30% of all mains water in the UK is lost via network leaks. So, ring in any leak that you see!


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