17:50 Thursday 11th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: After Spain, the East of England is the most stressed region in Europe for water. Thousands of pounds has been given to Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University to investigate and promote new ways of improving water efficiency. And I’m joined now by Dr Aled Jones, who’s the Director of Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute. Aled, hi.
ALED JONES: Hi Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Stressed. What does that mean?
ALED JONES: Stressed basically means whether we have enough water to be able to conduct the economic activity we have at the moment. So it’s a supply/demand problem. So looking into the future, we’re under stress, as in we don’t potentially have enough water to do all the economic growth activities that we want to do.
CHRIS MANN: And of all of Europe, all of those parched areas, I suppose we’re thinking of Greece, or Turkey or Portugal and other places like that, the South of France for instance, Navarre which has very low rainfall, really we are as bad as that?
ALED JONES: We are as bad as that in terms of a combination of rainfall availability as well as economic development. So we have very low rainfall. Some of those regions also have low rainfall. But they don’t have large cities and lots of growth happening. So it’s a combination of low rainfall and the amount of water that we need.
CHRIS MANN: And how big a problem potentially could this be?
ALED JONES: So it could be a really big problem here. We had two years of drought, which caused hosepipe bans. If that had extended for another few months, then that would have been much worse, in the sense that we would have started to have had to make decisions about whether we used water for agriculture, or for our cities. So it didn’t get to that stage. We’ve had a year of rainfall since then. So it’s replenished our reservoirs. But three years of drought and we are in serious trouble.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think people take it seriously as a problem, as an issue?
ALED JONES: We only take it seriously after a couple of years of drought. The real thing that we’re trying to focus on is we need to take it seriously before it’s a really big issue. So how do you get people engaged so we can do something in advance so it doesn’t become a problem?
CHRIS MANN: And could we as individuals actually make a difference? Because there are a lot of big companies, as you mentioned earlier. There’s the councils and so on, and the farmers. But could we as people in a back garden make a difference?
ALED JONES: Yes. And specifically the European funding we have is to try and share best practice across Europe around urban efficiency. So that’s basically home owners and small businesses, and some businesses within city centres. So it’s what are the sorts of technologies, what are the sorts of behaviours, that we can adopt to use less water.
CHRIS MANN: People with parched back lawns are poised about right now, about to water them. Are you talking to them?
ALED JONES: Yes, yes. So we’re looking at different sorts of plants that you can use, but also water technologies. It’s not just low flush toilets, but it’s how we use it, what we use water for.
CHRIS MANN: The low flush toilet thing, that’s interesting. Are they expensive to instal, and how much difference do they make?
ALED JONES: They’re not expensive to instal. The interesting question is whether they actually save any water. And that’s all about how people use them. So what we want to do is to see how people use these sorts of technologies. If you flush them twice, they’re not that ..
CHRIS MANN: But there are reasons for flushing toilets. very good ones.
ALED JONES: Yes. So you want to be able to use them, and use them appropriately. So if they aren’t as efficient as they’re supposed to be, or people don’t use them in the right way, we need to get better at understanding how people use technology.
CHRIS MANN: And should we be taking the baths out of our houses?
ALED JONES: It’s about a question of how often you have a bath. How often you have a shower.
CHRIS MANN: Shower with a friend, all that sort of stuff.
ALED JONES: Yes. Absolutely.
CHRIS MANN: No really. That makes that much of a difference, does it?
ALED JONES: It does. Sharing showers, but it’s also about washing machines, how often you wash clothes, the sorts of things that you do with washing, the food, the crockery that we use. So it’s all of those things that we use water for that’s practically invisible.
CHRIS MANN: So we should pave over our gardens, give up bathing. What’s the other one really key thing that people don’t know?
ALED JONES: Paving over your gardens is a really bad idea, because that just makes all the water, the rainfall, vanish down into the sewers, causes floods. So it’s better to have grass, and capture the rainfall, but not overwater. But the biggest use of water is sewage. So it is a question of toilets would be one of the first areas of how can we get better technology into the homes that people use, people know how to use, and it becomes something that you just do. And how you retrofit, how you get people to engage with this. So they know they’re saving money as well as doing something good about water.
CHRIS MANN: So your Global Sustainability Institute is going to go off and have a look at all this, and you’re going to come back and tell us what to do soon?
ALED JONES: It’s a three year project, but the idea is to try and extend this internationally, to share best practice, to collaborate and to be as open as possible, to create a network where we can offer as much information as possible to everyone.
CHRIS MANN: Fascinating stuff. Dr Aled Jones, thank you for joining me.