In times of crisis, we can learn from the wisdom and practicality of our ancestors who were into recycling generations prior to the term becoming fashionable.
Before the “throwaway” society, they darned holes in socks and used various other ploys, like patching, to stretch the lifespan of their clothes. As children, we collected glass jam pots and bottles for resale.
The recent dry spell and reports of water shortages highlighted the need to conserve this life-essential resource, all too often taken for granted. Just turn a tap and out it comes.
We remember a time when every house, especially in rural areas, had a barrel at the corner of the gable to catch rainwater flowing down chutes from the roof. In some cases, people used much bigger concrete troughs and troughs were in every farmyard. The water was used for non-drinking purposes.
Nowadays, this is called water harvesting, a process whereby that collected from roofs is diverted to a tank or reservoir, sometimes underground, for storage. Leaves and other debris can be filtered out.
Water harvesting is common in places like Australia which have long, dry spells of weather. Climate change scientists have been telling us for decades that Ireland will have similar weather in the future. That means water shortages without radical action.
Huge population increases in Irish cities over the coming decades will create a massive demand for drinking water, according to Irish Water. The population is set to grow by one million and 34,000 houses need to be built annually.
Piping water from the River Shannon to Dublin has already been mooted, controversially. They are also talking about desalting seawater and recycling water. Water harvesting must also come into play. Several Irish companies are already involving in harvesting and there have to be opportunities for more business.
Firstly, however, we need to look at the scandalous waste. Around 43% is currently lost through leaks in the piping system. About half of what we use does not need to be drinkable. We flush about 30% down toilets, wash clothes with 13% and use 7% to clean cars.
Just because we get a lot of rain doesn’t mean there is an ample supply of freshwater.
During the recent hot spell, water conservation requests and night-time water restrictions were in place in many areas.
The Water Forum says that, in June last year, we were the only country in Europe to have a conservation order in place owing to low rainfall levels in the springtime.
Ireland’s water supply is by no means secure. Up to 50% of supply zones suffer a supply risk in normal conditions and 75% have a shortage risk in drought conditions, it says.