Water & Air Quality
The head of the Environment Agency has warned that within 25 years, England will not have enough water to meet demand. He wants to see wasting water become “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby”. There is also a great deal we can do to reduce the pollutants we introduce into the watercourse.
Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Public Health England attributes between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths to long-term exposure to air pollution. The main sources of man-made particulate matter are combustion of fuels (by vehicles, industry and domestic properties) and other physical processes such as tyre and brake wear. 80% of nitrogen oxides are due to transport.
There are many things you can do to help improve our water usage and air quality. A good place to start is booking a free home visit from Southern Water who will fit water saving devices free of charge, provide water saving advice and check your system for leaks. You can book your visit at Water-saving home visits (southernwater.co.uk)
There are lots of things we can do to conserve water and reduce the pollutants introduced to the watercourse.
Flushing wet wipes down our toilets causes 80% of blockages and costs the water industry £100 million a year to manage. Many of the wipes still reach our rivers and beaches. In the space of six months, volunteers collected 20,000 wet wipes from one stretch of the Thames riverbank near Hammersmith Bridge.
‘All wet wipes sold as ‘flushable’ in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests’ – BBC Nov 2018
Follow the general rule: don’t flush it if you can bin it. Food waste, fats or grease, and hidden plastics like those in wet wipes and feminine sanitary items, should be disposed of in the refuse rather than flushed down the toilet. These items not only cause pollution; they require more energy to be consumed in the processing of waste water. By placing them in the bin instead, some energy can be reclaimed when the refuse is incinerated – better still, swap disposable for reusable products.
‘No Wipes in Pipes’
- £££ Install water efficient plumbing and domestic appliances like cisterns, showers, washing machines and dishwashers, which are ‘A rated’ for water consumption.
- £££ Install a Cistern Hippo. Toilet flushing accounts for 30% of household water use. A Cistern Hippo is a low-cost water saving device, which reduces the volume of water in the cistern and the amount used with each flush.
- £££ Flush less. You could also consider flushing less, adopting the mantra: ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow - if it’s brown, flush it down’!
- £££ Install an aerated ‘Low Flow’ eco shower head. These clever devices reduce the amount of hot water used while creating the illusion of a stronger flow of water. Prices start from as little as £10.
- £££ Take shorter showers. Showering rather than bathing and taking shorter showers will result in savings on energy and water consumption. Setting a timer on your phone can be helpful in reducing your shower time.
- £££ Choose the economy cycles on dishwashers and washing machines and make sure you run appliances with a full load.
- £££ Wash less often.
- *** Reclaim water by installing a water butt to harvest rainwater and use this in the garden or to flush the toilets. Catch grey water from the washing up, washing machine or bath and use that for the same purposes.
- £££ Fix leaks like your dripping taps and leaking toilets.
- £££ Don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth.
- £££ When you run the tap for hot water, you can collect the cool and luke warm water in your washing up bowl - or a bottle or jug - and use it to water the garden or indoor plants.
- Rather than running the tap for cold drinking water, fill a jug and keep it in the fridge.
- £££ Check for water leaks. A typical combined water and sewerage service bill for a domestic customer in 2019 is expected to be £438. Check for leaking water pipes and water meters and report burst or leaking pipes to the Southern Water Leakline on 0800 820 999.
- Insulate pipes and outside taps to prevent damage in cold weather.
- £££ Use less cleaning products, often a damp cloth is all that is needed.
Choose phosphate free cleaning products. Look for cleaning and beauty products that have been certified by the Soil Association - these contain natural ingredients and reduce those chemicals and pollutants affecting air and water quality. For laundry and cleaning products which are safe for Septic Tanks visit Septic Tank Safe Products | Big Green Smile.
- Make your own cleaning products from natural household ingredients; see our Guide to Homemade Cleaning Products.
- Look after your septic tank and make sure it doesn’t leak into the groundwater table or river.
Avoid disposing of the following into your septic tank:
Fats, oils and grease
Coffee grounds, egg shells and nut shells
Cigarettes with filters
Feminine sanitary care items
Bleach, paints or chemicals
As well as the external causes of air pollution there are products we use in our homes that contribute to air pollution. Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in personal care products, building materials and household products (paints, carpets, laminate furniture, cleaning products, air fresheners & polish). Carbon monoxide, NO2 and particulates are emitted from all domestic appliances that burn carbon containing fuels (coal, coke, gas, kerosene and wood). This can include boilers, heaters, fires, stoves and ovens.
- Don’t leave your car idling when stationary. The vehicle exhaust fumes emit a cocktail of pollutants and particulates into the air and this leads to poor air quality. Children, the elderly and anyone with a lung condition are particularly at risk from poor air quality.
- Choose public transport, walking or cycling where possible, or share car journeys. This reduces emissions and eases the traffic congestion that results in high concentrations of pollutants.
- Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. Anything either sent to landfill or incinerated will contribute to air pollution.
- Choose paints labelled Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) when decorating.
- Open windows when cooking and using cleaning products.
- Choose electric appliances over gas where possible.
- Choose low VOC or VOC free household products.
- Avoid using wood burners in general, but if you do, use dry wood.
- Ditch open fires and bonfires.
- Close windows around rush hour if you live near a busy road.
- Ditch scented candles, air fresheners and scented personal care products; these all lower air quality.
- Fill your house with plants. Houseplants can improve air quality. Trials show that between 3-6 medium sized plants in a non air conditioned building can reduce airborne volatile organic compounds to extremely low levels and reduce CO2 concentrations by a quarter.