(Main Pic – WWT London Wetland Centre which opened in 2000; Inset – the reservoirs it replaced)
Your body is made up of around two thirds water. You probably drink and pass litres of it every day.
Yet in case you’re somehow not aware of drinking and weeing every day, this week is all about water awareness. Firstly it’s Waterwise’s Water Saving Week, and secondly today it’s the UN’s World Water Day.
Both these campaigns are world-focussed. Think of drought-ridden third world countries where scarce or dirty water causes daily disease and death. But here in the UK we’re not as immune to water problems as we might think.
Earlier this month “the beast from the east” froze pipes and stopped water supplies in Sussex. A lady in Rotherfield told ITV Meridian News:
“I took a six pack of two-litre bottles from the water company which were really heavy and I thought would get me through a couple of days. Inside half an hour it took two to wash with, two to fill the toilet cistern and two more to cook breakfast and wash up and we’d run out.
“I was gobsmacked. Absolutely gobsmacked. I’ve never ever appreciated how necessary water is, and so much of it. I’ll never ever take it for granted again.”
In fact each person in the UK consumes an average 150 litre bottles worth of water every day. It’s staggering when you can visualise it in containers like that.
Overall we’re lucky to get enough rain to meet that demand – with a little help from pipelines to move water to busier or dryer areas. But the important thing is capturing it in the first place so that it doesn’t just run in to rivers and out to sea.
And that’s where the UN’s World Water Day comes in. Its theme is “nature for water” which drives home the point that we rely on our natural landscape to soak up that rainfall like a sponge and then yield it slowly for us to use.
By slowing the run-off from land into rivers, “wet land” keeps those rivers running wet during dry weather spells and stops them swelling and flooding during heavy weather. This natural process maintains our supply of water for drinking and growing food.
Granted, we can use big concrete reservoirs to capture rainfall to an extent. But really they’re just like bottles of water – you think they’re big until you realise how much water we actually need and that actually we need our whole landscape to cope with the job.
Added to that, natural waterscapes just look nicer. That’s why we’ve chosen before and after pictures of London Wetland Centre for this blog, so you can judge for yourself. The Centre is a strip of land that can soak up water, amid miles of urban concrete and streets which can’t.
The areas of land that stay wettest are, unsurprisingly, called wetlands. Whether you’re in Sussex, Scotland or Sudan, all humans rely on wetlands to store water in order to survive. You’re relying on them right now.
Water awareness is not just about the water itself, but how we capture it so that we can live. If we look after our wetlands, we look after ourselves.