The UK Is Wasting Billions Of Litres Of Clean Drinking Water Every Day

Drinking water

The UK Is Wasting Billions Of Litres Of Clean Drinking Water Every Day – Here’s What You Can Do To Stop It

Every single day more than three billion (that’s three thousand million) litres of perfectly good drinking water is wasted in the UK. That’s enough water to make 15 billion cups of tea, or to hydrate the entire population of Africa.  And although we are all probably guilty of using too much water in the home, the reality is that most of this water wastage happens before it even makes it into the house. That’s because Britain’s network of water pipes is riddled with leaks. With many of the leaks happening far away from home, it is much cheaper to leave the water gushing out than to try and repair them.

Water wastage is a long term problem and very little is being done to fix it.

Preventing wastage of water is not something that seems to be high on the list of priorities for the UK’s major water companies. Despite talking about wanting to plug the leaks for years, very little has changed. In fact in many instances the leaks have gotten worse, as this graph reveals:   Critics of the water companies say there is little enthusiasm to plug the leaks because the industry is not regulated properly, and that a lack of competition makes it easier for them not to take any real action.  But the water companies themselves — particularly NI Water — have blamed some water wastage causes on bad winter weather in recent months that has set them back in meeting their targets.

Here are some shocking water wastage facts: The most wasteful companies throw away more water than they provide to their customers.

This bar chart shows the worst offending water companies when it comes to water wastage. NI Water loses nearly twice as much in leakages than it actually provides to its customers in Northern Ireland.    Even Yorkshire Water loses about the same amount of water as it provides. For every drop of water that a Yorkshire customer uses to do the dishes or take a shower, another is lost needlessly through leaky pipes. The consequences of water wastage to this degree means that the customer often has to pick up the slack for the water companies’ recalcitrance. If there is a dry summer and a hose pipe ban comes into effect, normal taxpayers can be fined. But there needn’t be a ban in the first place if so much water wasn’t lost in leakages already.

Here is how to reduce water wastage in Britain — even if you’re not the one wasting it.

There are two things we can all immediately do to stop the billions of litres of water being wasted in Britain every day.  One is to put pressure on the water companies to take action. Make it clear as a customer that you aren’t happy with the amounts being wasted. Write a letter to them, citing humanitarian and moral reasons for why they should be working harder to prevent water wastage. In addition to this, write to your local MP. The second option is something we have complete control over, and it involves a little bit of awareness. This involves spreading the word. Before reading this article, had you any idea billions of litres were being wasted every day? Get others involved too. Together we can make the issue untenable for the water companies.  But this awareness should extend into the home. Yes, it’s true that most water is wasted before it reaches our taps, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t also be conscious about the levels we are already using. Take a look at this map. What do you see?

The map to the left shows the areas where water is under stress in Britain (highlighted in orange). The map on the right shows the service areas of the SES Water and Southern Water companies. Both of these water companies operate in an area with some of the highest water stress levels in the UK. Yet according to our water consumption statistics SES Water consumers are the most wasteful, and Southern Water consumers are the least wasteful — and they are right next to each other!

If SES Water consumers realised how much water they were using, and that they lived in an area that’s already feeling the strain of excess water wastage, they would probably try to cut down on their consumption. They might even look to their neighbours at Southern Water for advice on how to limit their intake.

Knowing about the problem is half the battle. The other half is making the effort to do something about it.

How does water wastage affect the environment?

There is a tendency to think that because water falls from the sky, and because most of the Earth’s surface is water, that we will never run out. But most of the water on Earth is saltwater (more than 90%). Of the remaining 10%, most of it is locked away in glaciers, or on mountain tops. Only a tiny amount of water on Earth is drinkable and accessible.  Water is replenishable, but if we take too much of it away before it is replenished we will run into trouble. The South-east of England, where the SES Water customers are, is one of the few places in the world where Chalk Streams exist. These unique streams are home to living organisms found nowhere else on the planet, and they are at risk of being permanently damaged — and all because it is considered too expensive or inconvenient to address a leakage in a pipe.  It is time we put an end to the culture of mass-water wastage in Britain, before it is too late.    — Neil Wright is a writer and researcher. This is original research data, obtained from Freedom of Information requests submitted to the British government and the water companies that serve the UK. 

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.