This factsheet will help you get actively involved in helping you and your community to use water wisely.
Water is precious and vital to all life on our planet but there is only a limited amount of it. In the North East we are fortunate to have a plentiful supply of water and it can be difficult to understand why it is important to be careful with the water we use and to try to avoid waste.
We use a great deal more water than we did in the past and our consumption is rising. Most of us don’t think about water. We all have bad habits when using water. These habits mean that we often use more water than we need to and create waste, without thinking of the impact. This is damaging to the environment and has a direct effect on our utility bills.
Water efficiency is about reducing waste and thinking about the water we all use, changing bad habits into good habits. Saving water not only helps preserve the precious and limited resource for the future, but in turn provides a variety of benefits. Everyone can save money by saving water, not just those that pay for their water by meter. Producing and treating water requires a lot of energy and results in carbon emissions, as does heating the water for your shower or bath. Therefore, saving water will reduce your carbon footprint helping the environment.
Everyone can do their bit to help protect our environment by not wasting water.
Using water wisely within a community will help to achieve an environmentally sensitive place for people to live. By following the simple steps outlined in this factsheet, you will help to protect your local environment and minimise water pollution in your local water courses – key components of any sustainable community.
02. Suggested Activities
There are a lot of simple actions that you as individuals or a community group can take to use water wisely in your homes and community buildings.
You can also promote these actions to the wider community. To help you get started here are some activities to consider:
In the home/community:
Look for drips
Check all of your home or community building’s taps. A dripping tap can waste a surprising amount of water, which can really add up on your bill over time. Dripping taps are easy to spot and remedy – most just need a new washer.
Examine the toilets at home and in community building(s) to see if you can install a more efficient flushing system. Flushing the toilet uses a high percentage of the daily water used in the home. Although the latest models are designed to work with less water, the older types can use up to 9 litres per flush.
Placing a Save-a-flush in your toilet cistern, you can save 1 litre every time you flush the toilet. To request a free Save-a-flush, visit www.nwl.co.uk/requestDevices.aspx.
Efficient washing machines
Try using dishwashers and washing machines only when they are fully loaded and treat the washing to a line dry whenever possible.
When buying new appliances at home or for community buildings go for machines rated ‘A’ for water and energy efficiency, they’ll save you money too.
Install a water meter
If you are a low or average user of water it may be cheaper for you to pay for your water by water meter. They are free to domestic customers. Contact Northumbrian Water for further information.
Install water butts to collect rain water to use in the garden or grounds. Try not to use a garden sprinkler. They can use as much in an hour as a family of four use in a day.
If you haven’t already, request the free water conscious gardening leaflet from Northumbrian Water and check out the water butt and other gardening offers by visiting their website at www.nwl.co.uk.
Considerate car washing
DIY car washing isn’t necessarily the most environmentally friendly way of keeping the car looking good. Dirt, oil and detergent filled water can flow down roadside drains and end up in local streams and rivers causing pollution.
Washing the car with a bucket and sponge uses much less water than using a hosepipe. If you prefer to use a car wash, try and find one that uses recycled water. Alternatively there are wipes on the market that can clean a car without using any water at all.
Out and about:
Look for leaks
Look for and report any leaks off your premises (both at home and when out and about) For help and advice, or if you spot a leak in the street, phone Northumbrian Water‘s leakage hotline on 0800 393 084 (Freephone 24 hour service).
If you suspect you have an internal leak you will need to contact a plumber. Planning how you would deal with a plumbing emergency is worth thinking about in advance (both at home and in your community buildings).
Get sewerage connections right
Most modern residential and industrial estates have been developed with two drainage systems. The foul water system takes sewage (from toilets, baths, kitchens, and so on) direct to a sewage treatment works. The surface water system collects rainwater (from roofs, roads, pavements, and so on) and discharges it directly into a local river or stream.
Ensure that new washing machines, dishwashers, extra toilets and bathrooms are correctly connected to the foul water system. If you connect to the wrong sewer, sewage from your property or community building could end up untreated in a local river or stream where it might cause real environmental damage. This is also illegal and you could face prosecution if you don’t correct your sewer connections.
For the same reason don’t pour oil, paints, chemicals or detergents down the drain – these can kill wildlife and cause extensive damage to ponds and rivers.
Blockages in the sewerage system can often be caused by grease being poured down the sink or by items being flushed down the toilet that shouldn’t be. The toilet is only meant to be used to flush away ‘what comes naturally’ and loo roll. Anything else can cause blockages, overflows and sewer flooding. Bag and bin anything else to prevent sewer flooding.
Similarly, grease fats and oils solidify in cold pipes and can cause expensive blockages in your pipes and the sewage system. Always dispose of fats, oils or grease in a container and put it in your bin or mix with seeds or bread to feed the birds in your garden.
Some other quick water saving tips to carry out and promote:
- Washing a mug under a running tap uses about a litre of water; six mugs uses about the same as a whole washing up bowl. So save the washing up until you have enough for a whole bowl.
- You can also save water by putting a plug in the sink, or use a bowl, for jobs like washing and preparing vegetables, or rinsing dishes. You could save 23 litres a day.
- A tap left running when you brush your teeth, wash your hands or shave also wastes water. You could save 10-14 litres of water every time if you turn the tap off while you brush your teeth and put a plug in the basin when washing or shaving.
- A family of four turning the tap off when they brush their teeth could save up to 80 litres per day – a whole bath full of water.
- Don’t let water run to waste whilst you are waiting for the tap to run hot. Fill a bowl or basin and then use that water to either cool your hot water down or to water plants.
- Only fill the kettle with the water that you need and you will have boiling water quicker and you will save electricity.
Other activities to promote across your community group and the wider community:
Water for health
Promote drinking more water to all members of the community to the young, old and everyone in between.
We can all benefit from drinking more water. Next to oxygen, water is the most vital substance to life. Our bodies need water: we use half a litre a day just by breathing. Water regulates our body temperature, helps digestion, carries oxygen and nutrients to every body cell, lubricates joints and removes toxins from our body. When we are thirsty, we concentrate less, listen less and do less well at school, college or work.
Try to drink the recommended eight glasses of calorie-free, fresh tap water every day. Also look at ensuring that drinking water is accessible in community buildings where appropriate.
You could arrange a community event to publicise this and give away free bottles of water from Northumbrian Water (see below).
Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. In the UK we take safe water for granted, but for many people living in the developing world safe water close to home is little more than a dream. Why not get your group involved in helping some of the world’s poorest people gain access to safe water and sanitation. To help WaterAid visit www.wateraid,org/uk or email them at email@example.com.
For further ideas on communicating information to your community, including how to write a press release or design a poster, visit the factsheet ‘Communicate ideas and information’.
03. Funding Opportunities
Here is a list of organisations that may be able to provide you with funding to carry out water saving projects.
Northumbrian Water plc
Small grants are available to voluntary groups fromNorthumbrian Water plc. The Foundations administer the Northumbrian Water Community Funds. Your local community foundations are:
Tees Valley Community Foundation – www.teesvalleyfoundation.org
County Durham Foundation – www.countydurhamfoundation.co.uk
Tyne & Wear and Northumberland Community Foundation – www.communityfoundation.org.uk
In addition the Tyne and Wear and Northumberland Community Foundation operate the Local Environmental Action Fund which supports local environmental projects.
‘tap into’, our bottled tap water
Northumbrian Water is bottling tap water to promote drinking water for a healthy life. The tap water has to be technically described as ‘still table water’ and is branded under the label of ‘tap into’. The not-for-sale bottles are being distributed free to a variety of community-based activities such as fun runs, walks, rambles, sporting tournaments, charity activities, Brownies, Cubs and school groups in return for appropriate PR opportunities, such as Northumbrian Water logos printed on literature or a mention in a media release.
Northumbrian Water customers who would like to apply for bottles for a community event should visit www.nwl.co.uk/Waterforhealth.aspx.
Should you need funding to support a project, the ‘Fundraising’ factsheet contains useful information and advice. Up to date information on current funding opportunities is available in the Directory.
Your local authority and the funding advisor at your local development agency will also be to support you. Full contact details are available in the Directory.
04. Useful Contacts
Northumbrian Water is your main contact for all issues concerning water and sewerage services here in the North East, and can also offer advice and help setting up community water related projects. Visit www.nwl.co.uk.
Customer centre T:0845 717 1100 Leakline T: 0800 393 084
To help you use water wisely in your home, community buildings and throughout the wider community, ensure that the following activities are undertaken:
1 Try to adopt and promote water wise actions at home and within community buildings.
2 Promote to your group and the wider community water for health and other campaigns such as WaterAid.
3 Remember to apply for free bottles of ‘tap into’ for your next community event.
06. About the Contributor
This factsheet has been written by Northumbrian Water plc., providers of water and sewerage services in the North East.
This factsheet is part of the Brighter Futures Together toolkit and provides a general overview of the different ways to get involved in your community. It is not a comprehensive guide or legal advice document. Please seek further advice and appropriate consent before commencing any projects.
The material in the factsheet is not copyrighted however we ask that you acknowledge the Brighter Futures Together toolkit when you use them. www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk
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