Reducing water consumption

We all rely on water. As climate change has more noticeable effects around the world, water supply will be affected. There are many areas of the planet that are already experiencing desertification, and this is anticipated to get worse unless we come together to protect our planet. Some predict that disputes over water supplies may be catalyst of armed conflicts and wars in the future.

Even if you are not in a country where there is a drastic scarcity of water, taking water out of the environment to pipe into our homes means it’s not there to flow down rivers and support the flora and fauna which grow naturally and provide a rich diversity of wildlife. Well documented examples of diverting rivers and water supply into cities for baths, showers and laundry, let alone into swimming pools in the more affluent areas of the world, means that the hills and valleys right on your doorstep start to dry up.

Even if a lack of water is not a concern in your country, or the region you live in, there is a high CO2 cost of water supply. Fresh, clean water piped into your home needs to be collected, filtered, treated, and pumped and piped to your building. Then the wastewater, from your household chores and bathrooms, needs to be cleaned and treated before being returned to the environment. That is a lot of processing.

Clean water is the foundation of a healthy existence. We shouldn’t be wasting it.

What can individuals do?

Each time you flush the toilet, you are sending approximately 20 litres of water down the drain. You can ensure your toilets are fitted with dual flush buttons (for shorter or longer flushes) or put bricks in cisterns to reduce the volume of water in each flush.

Imagine if we all save 5 litres of water each time we flush our loos, then billions of litres of fresh water could be saved and available to rush down rivers, sustain fish, save the lakes and enable forests, trees and plants to flourish and grow, which adds oxygen to our environment as well as supplying homes and food for a global plethora of wildlife.

So, what can we in IH schools do about this?

In washrooms, make sure your taps and water supply are well maintained and without leaks, so fresh water is not wasted down the drain.
If you have a garden attached to your school, collect rainwater from your roof for watering it. Your plants will prefer that and grow more lushly as a bonus!

If you are in a very environmentally friendly building, it may be that the architects have designed systems to collect and filter roof rainwater for flushing toilets, and installed local natural treatment systems (such as reed beds) to cleanse wastewater. If so, you are very lucky – celebrate this with your students!

Local schemes and charities

Water is so critical to human existence that in different regions there are very different pressures.

If your school is in a region which is suffering more flooding caused by climate change, students may be interested to get involved with local charities which are working to restore natural wetlands higher up watercourses to reduce flood risk. These have the dual benefit of reducing flood risk in towns and cities and restoring natural habitats where indigenous wildlife can flourish.

If your school is in a region suffering from lack of water, students may be interested in projects to conserve water and reduce it being needlessly used for ornamental displays like fountains, or watering municipal parks. If a little more water can be preserved for streams and rivers, the whole environmental cycle will benefit.

The supply of clean fresh water is something so fundamental to our modern existence that in most countries and cities we rarely think about how we use it. But in many countries, improved management of water supplies can contribute to better local habitats for both us humans and the native plants and animals we share our environment with.

Read more about the IH Environmental Sustainability Scheme >>