Water, a most precious gift 💧

Author: Clare Welfare

We are currently experiencing one of the hottest spells of weather across Europe and with the temperature gauge recording unprecedented levels of heat in the UK, we are told this is the shape of things to come due to global warming. At a time like this our natural reaction is to perhaps stay longer in a cooling shower, enjoy cold water straight from the tap embellished with ice cubes from our fridge, fill up the paddling pool ( and that’s not just for the children), in short we do anything to help ourselves to keep comfortable.

Most of these actions will involve the regular supply of water from our tap that we mainly take for granted…… at least I did. Then a few months ago something happened to me that really made me think about how I use water in and around my home.

Facts and stats: 771 million people don’t have clean water close to home. 

It all started on an evening back in March when I could just make out a high pitched sound coming from my bathroom. It sounded like a fine jet of water but however much I checked the floor, bath surround, sink etc I couldn’t see any sign of a water leak……so I did nothing. I must explain that due to a mobility problem I walk with a crutch so the option to get down flat on the floor to investigate further was just not an option.

The sound persisted for a day or two but as no evidence of water appeared in the bathroom I wasn’t too concerned. Luckily a good friend visited that evening and mentioned the “sound” so I knew I hadn’t been imagining it. Well, to cut a long story short she removed the front panel of my bath to reveal a fine jet of water, spraying away where two pipes had rubbed together over time causing the tiniest hole – not big enough to cause a flood but certainly in need of a plumber’s attention!

My friend turned off the mains water for me and by now it was 8pm. I called Dave my regular plumber who does 24 hr callout but describing the problem to him he asked me to email him a video clip of the leak in progress. My friend laid down on the bathroom floor and said video clip was despatched to Dave who promised to look at it and get back to me in the morning…… and so began my first night without mains water. 

When you have no access to water suddenly it put my mind into sharp focus about all the things I needed water for. No shower tonight, what about brushing my teeth, was any water left in the kettle for a cuppa before bed time and oh dear no, I wouldn’t be able to flush the loo. Luckily I found a large 5 litre container of bottled water that I had bought for an event a couple of weeks earlier that I hadn’t needed to use. My salvation, I could survive the night now I had 5 litres of pure water.

Watering more thoroughly but less frequently helps get the water down to the deeper root tips and is therefore more economical and better for the environment.

I can’t pretend it’s fun cleaning your teeth without running water but at least I was able to use a glass of precious water from my stash to at least go to bed feeling half human. I was also able to use a small amount of water to wet a flannel to wipe my face and hands before heading to bed. I was hopeful Dave would rescue me in the morning and life would return to normal. How wrong could I be.

Dave phoned at 7.30am to say he’d seen the video & due to the inaccessibility of the offending leaky pipe, it was a big job and would probably be a full two days work and due to his other work commitments he was unlikely to be able to get to me for a fortnight! I thanked him and frantically started messaging local friends for their recommendations of plumbers who might come to my aid. An hour later I had spoken to 9 plumbers all of whom told me the same as Dave and said they were unable to get to me within the next month… now I was starting to panic. 

It was at this point I had a flash of inspiration – didn’t I have a little known insurance policy through Anglian Water that provided callout for such plumbing emergencies. Full of hope I rifled through my endless pile of household paperwork and there it was. I rang them straightaway and they promised someone would be with me by the end of the day- hurrah, what a relief.

Feeling much calmer I made myself a cup of tea, just using enough to fill the kettle from my 5 litre stash and then brushed my teeth using just a small glass of water. My stash was now slowly diminishing. I then drove into town where I am a member at one of the local gyms. A quick swim followed by a shower & hair wash meant that personal hygiene was sorted for the time being. 

Turning off the water while brushing your teeth can save around 12 litres of water per person per day! 

The problem of the loo remained an issue and then I remembered my next door neighbour had an outside tap on her wall less than 5 yards from my driveway. On returning home I explained my predicament to her and asked if I could fill my bucket up from her tap and in this way I could refill my cistern each time the loo needed a flush. She gladly agreed and to say I was relieved was to put it mildly.

I discovered the loo needed at least two bucketfuls of water to get a reasonable flush so as I live alone decided the best policy to adopt was “ if it’s yellow let it mellow and if it’s brown flush it down”. Going back and forth was difficult for me as with my limited mobility, carrying a heavy bucket wasn’t easy but going slowly worked just fine. My lovely neighbour offered to help but something pig headed within me made me determined to manage on my own.  

I started thinking about lunch and discovered I had several home made meals in the freezer which I could microwave so shepherds pie it was. Not wishing to use much water I put carrots, peas and broccoli in my three tier steamer and so was able to enjoy a decent lunch. No sign of the emergency plumber from Anglian Water so decided to pop round to a friend for a chat but what I was really going for was a cuppa and a chance to use her loo……well, she is a good friend and we had a good laugh together about my predicament! 

The emergency plumber (all 6’ 4” of him) didn’t arrive till 7pm and took one look at the job and told me he couldn’t do it tonight. It was a big job as the bath would have to be come out, floor and wall tiles would need to be removed and any damage caused in repairing the leak wouldn’t necessarily be covered by the insurance policy. Things were getting worse not better!

Harvesting rainwater for your garden is a brilliant way to save water. It’s also better for your plants as it has a lower pH than tap water!

He did promise to phone the job in as an emergency now and tomorrow I could expect two plumbers to embark on the job. Oh joy, so here I was facing another night without mains water. So it was a repeat of last night, refilling buckets from my neighbours tap and using my 5 litre stash which was now down to about 2 litres for face washing  and teeth cleaning – I could have wept. Next morning it was back to the gym for a shower & hair wash so at least I’d look presentable when the two plumbers showed up.

The morning was uneventful and it was 4pm when the two plumbers arrived. The plumber who was clearly in charge was young, very slim build and amazingly cheerful – he clearly loved his job and a challenge. I watched him wriggle under my bath, contorting his body into an impossible shape to reach the offending pipe. He emerged a few minutes later and said joyfully that he thought he could replace the troublesome pipe WITHOUT removing the bath. I hardly dared breath as once more he wriggled back under the bath. I offered to make both plumbers a cup of tea with my last remaining water – it felt like the least I could do in the circumstances. Forty minutes later I heard the sound I’d been hoping for,”It’s fixed, we can turn the mains water back on” !  

I was so relieved and grateful. I had been without mains water for probably only 36 hours but what an eye opener the experience was for me. We are so lucky to live in a country where clean fresh tap water direct into our homes is considered to be a basic human right. It has certainly make me think about my water usage and how I may have casually left a tap running when I didn’t need to or how I may have lingered longer in the shower than really was necessary. It has made me change some of my habits to reduce my water consumption which has been really easy to do e.g. not leaving the tap running the whole time as I brush my teeth or using the water from the dog bowl to water my plants rather than just pouring it away.  

Climate change is making life harder for people who already struggle to get clean water.

Anglian Water – Protect Every Drop

With the economic crisis our country is facing, anything we can do to save ourselves money by reducing our water consumption and energy costs is definitely worth pursuing. Anglian Water are offering plenty of guidance about saving water and it’s well worth a read. Every drop counts! Here are some great tips with a few small actions we can all take that will help reuse, recycle and protect every drop of water will make a big difference for the environment today, and for tomorrow 👉 read all tips here. Are you a water saver or do you like to splash out? Take a quiz here!

Click on image to read the Anglian Water water-saving tips!

As for me, I will try to really think about my water usage and just use what I really need and I hope you will think about doing the same.

Oh, it might be worth checking out whether you have any insurance for plumbing emergencies because what I really learnt was that plumbers are rarer than hen’s teeth when you really need one! 

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and learning a little more about our precious water! Why not take a look at our WH&T Going Green Facebook Page which is packed with ideas on how to bee more green, wherever in your journey to sustainability you are.

Thank you for reading!

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