How much water is hiding in your shopping basket?
Last modified: 31 August 2012
WATER! There’s either not enough of it or too much, but then it’s the wrong kind or in the wrong place.
Since the beginning of the year, it seems that water has barely been out of the news, with a constant stream of advice about what you should do, or can’t do, with it.
In April we were facing one of the worst droughts in living memory, with experts predicting negative impacts on wildlife, and the increased threat of fire facing wildlife rich heathlands.
Yet, no sooner was drought declared and hosepipe bans were in place across the south east corner of England, the heavens opened and we were dealing with severe floods.
The wildlife fared little better with the sudden deluge of water. Ground nesting birds had their nests, eggs and chicks washed away.
While in our gardens, wet and cold weather in the early part of the breeding season would have made it harder for adult birds to find enough food for their chicks.
With adult birds spending longer away from the nest searching for food, chicks would also have been more exposed to the cold. The number of gardens with baby thrush species in them this year was down by as much as 27 per cent compared to last year.
Despite what’s happening outside, and with water news becoming background noise, it’s easy to take our water supply for granted when we have a constant supply of water on tap direct into our homes.
However, the RSPB is urging people to think about the impact their water use could have on nature.
The nature conservation charity explains that by using water more wisely in our homes, gardens and workplaces, we can help to ease the pressure on our wetlands and rivers.
Samantha Stokes, spokesperson for RSPB south east, said: “Saving water will ensure more stable, resilient habitats for the birds and other wildlife that depend on our water environment for their survival.
“We’re often told about the obvious ways of saving water: collecting rainwater to use in your garden, turning off the tap when you brush your teeth and using washing machine cycles that use less water.
“But, it’s not just about the water coming out of our pipes. Water is used in the production of all sorts of products too.
“It is these ‘hidden connections’ which we all need to become more aware of.”
This hidden water is known as ‘embedded’ water, and it is the water that is used to produce food and non-food products. Embedded water makes up about 70% of our water footprint and comes from other nations whose goods we import.
Miss Stokes added, “Each person in Britain uses about 150 litres of tap water a day, but if you include the water embedded within products, that consumption increases to around 3,400 litres per person every day!
“Most of it is in our food - a tomato has about 13 litres of water embedded in it, a hamburger has about 2,400 litres and one slice of bread has 40 litres. Chocolate, beer, clothing, paper, our homes and cars, even electricity all have water embedded in them.
“We all know that water is an essential part of our daily lives – but often in many more ways than we may initially realise.”
Some food production in arid countries relies on unsustainable sources of water, which in turn shrinks wetlands and the wildlife that depends on them.
By asking questions and choosing carefully when you shop you’ll be Stepping up for Nature and helping to tackle water stress overseas as well as at home.
Find out more about saving water, please visit the RSPB website http://www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup/do/
The RSPB’s ‘Stepping Up for Nature’ movement encourages everybody to take steps, no matter how big or small, in order to help protect nature and ensure the Government meets its target to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2020. For more information and ideas on what you can do visit the campaign website www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup