Many of us, in our personal or professional lives, are used to thinking about our carbon footprint. But what about your water footprint? Have you ever thought about that?
I’m not saying energy and carbon saving aren’t vital if we are to reverse global warming. But, we rely on water to live. We can’t live without it for even a few days. And yet, we take water for granted – and we waste it, loads of it. Treating and managing water has its own carbon cost, too; we will never get to carbon neutral without addressing what it takes to become water neutral as well.
Water neutrality is not just a subject for theoretical contemplation. It’s already making an impact on people’s lives in the UK and it will not go away. In one area of Sussex, the Local Plan to build 17,000 new homes was halted last year, and a moratorium placed on all new developments unless they can be demonstrated to be water neutral. The ban was imposed after Natural England decided enough was enough, following over-abstraction of water from the local environment. The amount of water being taken from the sensitive River Arun could no longer be tolerated.
Water neutrality is where a new development must not result in any increase in demand for mains water within the planning area in which it is situated. It’s something that local people, developers and businesses in Sussex are already having to live with. How long will it be before other places follow suit?
I am an Australian. I was brought up on a farm in the State of Western Australia where living with drought was a way of life. As a child, I lived where there was no such thing as mains water running freely from a tap. Water had to be collected and recycled. Even when I went to Curtin University, an hour and a half outside of the urban sprawl of Perth, water was scarce, and it was not uncommon for me to go to the swimming pool to get a bath.
When you know that water will run out if you use too much of it, you have a different mentality.
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