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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Water, water everywhere

Shocking facts in today's Guardian, which tells us that the UK has become the sixth largest net importer of water in the world, with every consumer indirectly responsible for the use of thousands of litres a day. Only 38% of the UK's total water use comes from its own resources; the rest depends on the water systems of other countries, some of which are already facing serious shortages.

A new study calculates that:

· Average household water use for washing and drinking in the UK is about 150 litres a person daily, but we consume about 30 times as much in "virtual water", used in the production of imported food and textiles;

· Taking virtual water into account, each of us soaks up 4,645 litres a day;

· Only Brazil, Mexico, Japan, China and Italy come higher in the league of net importers of virtual agricultural water. People in poorer countries typically subsist on 1,000 litres of virtual water a day;

· Different diets have different water footprints. A meat and dairy-based diet consumes about 5,000 litres of virtual water a day while a vegetarian diet uses about 2,000 litres.

I know that this is a very serious situation and not one which can be taken lightly, but where exactly has all the rain we have had this month disappeared too? Surely we must have redressed some of the balance by now.

I am pleased that work is underway to try and address the problem.
I take it, since we are a "net" importer of food, we are "importing" the water required to grow them crops / raise those steaks.

How unfortunate, we are relying on the likes of Africa (especially) and South America for our food in addition to Continental Europe.

It would appear that food miles are lost concept... I've heard of it but not generally recongnised in the general population.

Could easily end up in the situation as we did with Ireland in the 18th & 19th Centuries where there was food being grown for the England, Wales and Scotland in Ireland but the population was starving since the potatoes had blight.
"Average household water use for washing and drinking in the UK is about 150 litres a person daily"???? Where do all these super-hydrated super-clean people live? :) I'm amazed that we still import water when South Wales has been twinned with Atlantis for the past few weeks! How about a tax break for households that install systems to use rain water for flushing the toilet etc?
Do these figures take into account the water used to produce the packaging associated with these goods?
There's no actual shortage of water - the UK is surrounded by giga tons of it. The world is not running short of water - in fact it is gaining water each year. The issue is one of over use or more accurately misuse of water. Water can be delivered to just the roots of plants thereby saving water. Spain (and other countries) gets part of their water supply from the sea; the UK could do the same or could start watering roots. The UK could manufacture this technology and export it to those countries from which it imports food supplies. There are solutions, but only if we put them into practice.
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