Brits are being told to suck it up, and that they need to be “less squeamish” about drinking recycled sewage in the face of climate change.
The head of Britain’s Environment Agency wrote in the Sunday Times a variety of measures that the government, water companies, and regular people need to take to avoid droughts – which are predicted to happen in the future.
With all the ongoing shortages, it’s no surprise that water, too, is on the table.
“Part of the solution will be to reprocess the water that results from sewage treatment and turn it back into drinking water – perfectly safe and healthy, but not something many people fancy,” said Sir James Bevan.
Bevan stated that he expected the move to be “unpopular,” but said it was necessary to “change how we think about water,” despite the backlash to such proposals.
“We need to remember where it comes from: when we turn on the tap, what comes out started in a river, lake or aquifer. The more we take, the more we drain those sources and put stress on nature and wildlife,” he said.
Bevan’s remarks come after a drought was declared in large portions of England last week.
As detailed by the Guardian, Yorkshire Water and five other companies in southern England and Wales enforced a ban on hosepipe use due to dwindling water supplies in reservoirs and rivers.
“Data from the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology shows that most of south and east England have very dry conditions underground, caused by heatwaves and a lack of rainfall,” the Guardian reported. “Farmers have warned the dry soil could affect key crops, such as potatoes, with the price of chips expected to rise next year," the Grocer magazine reported.
Bevan, who has led the environment agency since 2015, says that the government must “show political will” and impose changes to how the public uses water.
“We need to treat water as a precious resource, not a free good. We will have to be more selective about what we use drinking water for. It makes no sense to use it to clean the car or water the lawn,” he wrote.
He advised: “Each of us can be part of the solution, starting now. Small things make a big difference. Take showers, not baths. Cram the dishwasher or washing machine and only run it when it’s full. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Fix leaks: many are in our own homes, not water company pipes. Get a water meter: your company will install one free. Outside the house, get a water butt: plants prefer rainwater. Use a watering can, not a hose, and don’t water the grass – it doesn’t need it.”
“‘Use water wisely’ is not a slogan,” the water chief added. “It’s a guide for how to survive. Let’s follow it.”