The role of water conservation on the road to Net Zero
September 8, 2022
There are many things to consider as businesses take the path towards Net Zero. Whether that’s reducing energy use, shortening transport journeys, or reducing emissions in the supply chain. But what about the role of water conservation?
Water consumption and energy are interlinked. Extracting, pumping, treating, and heating water consumes energy, and pumping and treating wastewater releases greenhouse gases. If water consumption is reduced, less energy is used. This leads to an emissions reduction and we all move closer towards Net Zero.
It’s unsurprising that water is so prominent in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. These go beyond goal number 14, Life Below Water, and include access to precious water resources. Particularly in developing countries. Water sits at the heart of sustainable development and is essential for socio-economic development, the creation and retention of healthy ecosystems and human survival itself. It also plays an important role in helping to reduce disease spread and improving the health and welfare of global populations.
Reducing water usage and in particular, water waste, can have a positive effect on our planet and environment – but where do you start?
Taking care of the Blue Planet
Few documentaries have had quite the impact on changing government policies and human behaviors quite like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet. Broadcast in 2017, Blue Planet highlighted the devastating impact humans have on the oceans, including the growing problem of plastic pollution. The series created a ‘Blue Planet effect’, convincing people to consume less plastic and pushing the plastics industry to investigate new technologies for plastics recycling. It also heralded in a single-use plastics movement.
Protecting our oceans depends on us drastically cutting GHG emissions to minimize global warming and put an end to activities that threaten marine life. However, the issue stems beyond the oceans themselves.
Our rivers and waterways are also rich habitats, home to some of Earth’s most delicate ecosystems. They depend on a plentiful supply of fresh water but too many are drying up or are blighted by pollutants. Climate change, industry and unsustainable forms of agriculture are responsible for decades of degradation. Which until now has gone largely unchecked.
Protecting and restoring these environmental assets is key to rejuvenating our planet, feeding a growing population, and protecting ourselves against the worst impacts of global warming. According to the UN, more than 80% of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or seas without any pollution removal. Be it agricultural pesticides or industrial waste, our waterways are treated as dumping grounds to the detriment of wildlife, plants, and local communities.
How can you make a difference?
Responsible waste disposal goes beyond choosing a supplier who claims to be responsible. Diverting waste from waterways is essential and everyone can contribute to this by:
- Being mindful of fluids disposed of down drains
- Ensuring appliances are correctly plumbed into the sewer rather than the surface water drain
- Washing clothes less frequently to ensure fewer microfibres are released into aquatic waterways, and water is not wasted unnecessarily.
It’s also simple to save water both at home and within your corporate premises. Ensuring taps have no leakages is important. A running tap is estimated to waste more than five liters of water a minute, while a dripping tap can waste more than 5,300 liters of water a year. Ensuring dishwashers and washing machines are full before use is also helpful. Installing a water meter will show you how much of this precious resource you are using at any one time.
Recent droughts across Europe demonstrated the effects of climate change as countries reached record temperatures. As well as how essential water is to habitats, humans, and nutrition. If everyone made small changes to their daily routines, we can make a major stride towards net zero and more sustainable lifestyles.
Want to learn more about the role of water in Net Zero, or access more tips on water conservation? Take Learning Pool’s interactive learning course, which features a module dedicated to the Water Cycle. Click here to find out more.
About the author
Dr. Denise Taylor is a qualified sustainability consultant who founded a family-run business, Wylde Connections, alongside her daughter in January 2020. The inception of Wylde brought together Denise’s knowledge, skills and experience gained over 30 years across three main disciplines: environmental education, strategic marketing communications, and learning and development. Find Denise on Linkedin.
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