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Stupid question?

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Green & Ethical MoneySaving
9 replies 1.2K views
rainbow12rainbow12 Forumite
182 Posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Green & Ethical MoneySaving
At the risk of sounding dumber than dumb can someone explain the water shortage in the UK to me ie what is causing it? Not just the recent hosepipe ban but the underlying long term cause.

I understand that global warming may be causing evaporation and a lack of water falling (?). However, surely the water already in 'the system' just gets filtered over and over again and is then available over and over again. If that is true then why is it frowned upon to flush my toilet too often or to have long soaking baths with the water running? Or watering my garden? (I think I understand that one a bit more because it doesnt drain back into the water supplies we already have?)

I understand in drought countries that there is a shortage of water due to lack of rainfall and lack of water in the system as such.

We never used to have a shortage of water - surely it cant all be down to global warming (can it?). Has an increasing population linked to it too?

Am I being really stupid here? Actually, better not answer that one!
Thanks

Replies

  • torbrextorbrex
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    rainbow12 wrote: »
    Has an increasing population linked to it too?

    Am I being really stupid here? Actually, better not answer that one!
    Thanks
    Partly right with this.
    More people use more water and it all needs to be processed and that takes time whether it is for consumption or the processing of waste.
    There is only a finite amount of available fresh water in the country and if you look at where water shortages hit hardest, it is always areas of highest population.

    There is another connection with population and water shortage, humans are made up of roughly 70% water so this is locked away at all times until death so more people, more water locked up :p
  • faerie~spanglesfaerie~spangles Forumite
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    No water shortage up here. Nor do I recall there ever being a hosepipe ban. :D

    I suspect that successive governments have never seen fit to upgrade to suit the growing population or even maintain properly the water supply infrastructure.
    I'm not that way reclined

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  • Our system was built when the population was much lower & so was the domestic use of water. Even 50 years ago we didn't all have bathrooms let alone washing machines etc.
    So it isn't actually the same water going round. Even if we ignore leaks, which just lose water into the ground, every time a new building goes up it increases the call on a system which just wasn't built with the capacity to cope with the water we demand now. Add lack of rainfall to top up reservoirs & the water table & we come unstuck :(
  • The_Green_HornetThe_Green_Hornet Forumite
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    There is no water shortage in the UK, just poor water management.
  • Ben84Ben84 Forumite
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    torbrex wrote: »
    There is another connection with population and water shortage, humans are made up of roughly 70% water so this is locked away at all times until death so more people, more water locked up :p

    You're joking, surely! One toilet flush uses more water than most people drink in a day.

    Anyway, the water shortage suggests we're running out of water, but to be clear it's a limit in the infrastructure to collect and clean water that is the problem. I don't believe global warming has any notable effect on the water available in the UK. The main issue is more people live in the UK than before and we use more water per person, so the volume typically present in rivers and reservoirs has to be shared between more people.

    There is no closed cycle with the water we use, the water is originally collected in reservoirs from rain water (directly, or from rivers), then cleaned up and pumped to your house. You use it and throw it away down the drain, from which solids are sieved out and landfilled, while the liquid undergoes some cleaning before being emptied in to the sea or a river. Water that goes down your drain eventually reaches people's taps again, but only indirectly. So, using the water during a drought to water the garden isn't considered bad because it doesn't go down the drain, just because it uses a lot of water. It is possible to infinitely recycle water, this happens on space stations, but it's very costly and is unlikely to be a solution to the huge volumes of waste water with such varied contaminants as we produce from cities any time soon.
  • There is no water shortage in the UK, just poor water management.
    This is a big part of the problem. I found out a couple of weeks ago that the fines to water companies for leaking pipes is less than the cost of repairing the pipes. The government recently issued the water companies with leakage repair targets which are so low so some companies won't even have to pay the fines. Leaking pipes is just one part of the problem though.
  • larkimlarkim Forumite
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    There is no "global warming" effect on water supply in the UK.

    The issue is readily available treated water supplies for large population areas. We "waste" so much water that is treated on functions which do not require treated water (particularly flushing the toilet), and the infrastructure to bring water from the water-rich areas simply doesn't exist in the right quantities.

    A series of dry seasons can and will cause "water shortages" in a given area (even the nice wet areas like the North West of England where I live have had hosepipe bans in my living memory), but those are short term effects in the grand scheme of things.

    Matt
  • rainbow12rainbow12 Forumite
    182 Posts
    Thanks everyone. I think I finally get it now.
    And no-one abused me for being a bit stupid!
  • jimjamesjimjames Forumite
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    This is a big part of the problem. I found out a couple of weeks ago that the fines to water companies for leaking pipes is less than the cost of repairing the pipes. The government recently issued the water companies with leakage repair targets which are so low so some companies won't even have to pay the fines. Leaking pipes is just one part of the problem though.

    As you say leaks are only one part of the problem but a widely misunderstood one. There is a point at which it costs more to repair the pipes than the water it saves and as all costs ultimately come down to customers I'm not sure how many people would be prepared to see water bills double for example just to reduce leakage by a few percent let alone the huge disruption the roadworks would cause.

    Water leaks seem to make headlines but leakage from gas pipes isnt very different but strangely never gets mentioned despite the far more obvious safety issues.

    Overall there is water that can be used but people don't want new reservoirs in their backyard or to pay the costs of moving water huge distances.

    If it was a choice between vastly increased water bills to ensure I can use my hosepipe whenever I want or occasional bans but lower bills I know what I would prefer
    Remember the saying: if it looks too good to be true it almost certainly is.
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