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     Volume 5 Issue 101 | June 30, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Wishing for Rain

Nadia Kabir Barb

Hallelujah! It is raining! In fact for the last few weeks I have been hoping that we would get a glimpse of the typically grey and wet British weather that we are so used to. No, I have not taken leave of my senses and I am not saying this because I am one of those people who love to complain about everything including the weather. "It's always grey and miserable in London", when it rains and "it's way too hot and we are just not equipped to deal with this kind of heat" when it is sunny! Normally I would be rejoicing at the absolutely glorious weather we have been having over here. Blue skies, sun shining, birds singing (ok a bit of artistic license here) --- I almost feel like I am in a scene from "The Sound of Music" and on the verge of bursting into song. It has been such a nice change to finally be able to put away the long coats and thick cardigans in exchange for some summer clothes and to have the luxury of wandering around London in my open toed sandals and making use of my sunglasses which seem to gather dust for most of the year. But I have been feeling rather guilty about enjoying the wonderful weather. There is a valid reason for my remorse and that is because we are currently suffering from a drought in England.

It is quite shocking to know that South-east England has been affected by one of its worst droughts on record. We have been having months of rainfall that has been below average and some areas are suffering from one of the worst droughts since the 1920s. According to the papers, March was the 17th month in a row of sub-normal rainfall. Even if average rainfall returns to normal for the time of year, over the next few months there will still in all probability be a shortage in the water supply. In the developing world the average usage of water is only 20 litres a day. But in the UK we use around 165 litres a day which is a rather staggering figure and to make matters even worse, a third of which is used to flush our toilets! When you are living in what is supposed to be a developed country the last thing you tend to worry about is whether you will have enough drinking water or water for a shower or for watering your plants. Currently a total of around 13 million people in southern Britain are affected by a hosepipe ban (Guardian Newspaper). Although there still seems to be a bit of confusion as to what this ban may or may not include there is a restriction on watering plants in the garden with a hosepipe or using sprinklers or even washing cars with a hose.

It is a fact that there is quite a lot of misuse of water by households that can easily be remedied but even so this would not change the situation dramatically, as one of the major problems is the fact that the water companies-- especially in the south-east--are losing an unbelievable amount of water each day in leakages. Thames Water seems to have the worst record for fixing the existing leaks. It has missed its target for preventing leaks for the last four years, and last year 915 million litres a day leaked from the company's pipes.

As a consumer, I know that there are things that we do without thinking, which in its turn affects the quantity of water we use but when you actually look at numbers it does put things into perspective. For example when we brush our teeth, if we leave the tap running, we manage to waste six litres of water per minute! Instead of using dishwashers and washing machines when they are half full, if we wait till the load is full we can cut down on the usage of water. Also we can save up to 140 litres a week by replacing worn washers on dripping taps. Using a bucket and sponge to wash the car instead of a hose can save up to 250 litres. I have been reading about how else to reduce water consumption and some suggestions are very reasonable and easily done, others are a little harder to get comfortable with. Putting a jug of water in the fridge, instead of leaving the tap running to get a cold drink makes sense. We can save up to 300 litres a week by taking a short shower instead of having a bath. This is something that our household does not have any issues with as showers are definitely preferred to baths. According to our Mayor of London Ken Livingstone we should think before we flush our toilets. He suggests "Don't flush if all you have done is take a pee." This however seems grossly (pun intended) unhygienic to me personally and I would hope that if one can reduce the quantity of water being used or wasted in other areas, then this particular idea can be overlooked!

All I hope is that we do not have a repetition of the 1976 drought where numerous households in Wales and the west of England were reduced to not having access to tap water for much of the day when temperatures were frequently over 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Thousands of homes in Yorkshire and East Anglia had their water supply replaced by communal standpipes in the street which meant people had to stand in line to fill containers with water for their daily consumption. In fact it was also the case that having a dirty car implied you were patriotic and were abiding by the water restriction policy!

I think I spoke too soon as it seems to have stopped raining. I can only hope that we have more of this grey and wet weather in the next few weeks. As they say every cloud has a silver lining and in this case maybe it is the fact that I need not feel ashamed that my car is looking particularly dusty. I will just put it down to being environmentally friendly and an upstanding British citizen…

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