This blog was originally based on a course ran by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin who also wrote a textbook for the module Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. Now working as an independent consultant, Nick continues to work in the area of environmental sustainability and looking at ways of making a difference without recriminations or guilt. Saving the planet is all about living sustainably.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Water, water everywhere...?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not known for my water conservation awareness. Growing up on an island with seemingly endless water has left me somewhat detached from the reality of the need to conserve water. To be honest, I’ve always found that we have too much… constant rain, rivers, canals, lakes, and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean. However, the recent media coverage about upcoming water charges and the need to conserve it left me thinking, what if I could no longer simply turn my tap to get the water that I needed; no longer run to the local shop to buy it?
The very thought of this is completely alien to me. Not to be able to turn on the tap to brush my teeth, no water to heat my house, no 15 minute shower in the morning, no water to cook or to make tea with, no water to wash my dishes or clothes, and above all else, no water to drink. But, like I said, we’re an island country. There’s water everywhere. So I thought of where I could go to collect water. A canal runs just behind where I live, but rather than fight off rats, and getting tangled in old bicycles and trollies, I had to think of some cleaner options. It soon dawned on me that this was not a simple task. Any sources of water I could think of were tainted by urban life. Polluted, dirty water was all I could find. Either that, or undrinkable sea water.
Assuming that there were no clean fresh-water wells around, I would have to get out of the city. I would have to trace a river far enough to its origin to minimise pollution. How long would I have to follow the river upstream to find a fresher supply of water? Taking the Liffey as my example, the answer is roughly 20km, or so Google Maps tells me. To walk, this would take a mind-numbing 3 hours 59 minutes. By car, 27 minutes in light traffic. Even if I filled a car full of water and stored it in my home, I would have to make serious changes. Gone would be the days of my leisurely showers, the ease of my dishwasher, and the comfort of my heating.
I would have to think of ways of making my water last. I decided to actually try these over the course of a day, to see how hard it would be to think consciously about my water consumption. Quick showers (with simultaneous teeth brushing), measured water for tea, and washing all dishes together in a basin, were the easy ones. Toilet flushing and clothes washing weren’t so easy to avoid. I very quickly realised how clean and safe water was taken advantage of in this country, and that many small measures could be taken to minimise waste. Perhaps the notion of no clean water wasn’t so farfetched. For millions of people, this is a constant reality. Though we’re a small island in the grand scheme of things, a little goes a long way. And we must all work to change our misguided attitude towards water.
Daragh Poynton  

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