Skip to main content
Blog Post 22 April 2022

Invest in our planet: why water is always worth saving

Every year on 22 April we celebrate Earth Day, a day that calls for us to act, innovate and implement climate action now.

Globally, we need governments, businesses and individuals to recognise the changes required to address the climate crisis and to start to take action.

It’s easy to take for granted the natural resources which are available to us every day, but it’s important to remember how dependent we are on water resource for our food, environment and livelihoods. Without water, we simply wouldn’t exist.

In recognition of this year’s theme of ‘invest in our planet’, we spoke to our water efficiency project coordinator, John Kelly, about why water is always worth saving, and how it’s everyone’s responsibility to manage their usage to ensure safe water access for all.

Turning the tap on

Living in the UK, with modern plumbing in our homes, it can be easy to take for granted that water will be readily available whenever we need it. We may not witness the worst effects of water shortages here in the UK, but many countries are already suffering with extreme droughts and water poverty.

In Scotland and Wales, domestic water use is not usually metered, and so it’s seen as a plentiful resource. However, it’s important to see the bigger picture, and recognise that water is a finite resource with variable availability dependent on our increasingly changeable climate.

Living with drought

In Sub-Saharan Africa, farmers face increasing uncertainty during annual droughts. Without access to new technologies, many farmers are unable to grow crops year-round and face periods without work.

Currently, only 6% of farmland in Sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated. Through our work with Efficiency for Access and its foundational initiative, the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances programme (LEIA), we are helping to enhance access to solar water pumps, which help smallholder farmers maintain crop yields during droughts and access groundwater reserves.

These appliances can have a transformative impact on rural communities and allow families to access clean water close to home. However, it’s important to manage groundwater resources sustainably to avoid over-extraction. We have more insight on how to sustainably increase irrigation in the region in this report, which is co-authored by our senior research expert – energy access, Richa Goyal.

Consumption vs availability

The Covid-19 pandemic saw an increase in handwashing campaigns, and we were all encouraged to stay at home. As a result, we saw increases in our energy and water use, which placed higher demand on our utilities.

According to Scottish Water, the average domestic water consumption in Scotland has risen over the past two years from 165 litres per day to 189 litres – largely due to changes in habits during the pandemic. And although business water consumption fell during the same period, this did not offset the overall increase in water use in Scotland.

We’ve also seen increasingly changeable and unpredictable weather across the UK, which has put greater pressure on our water resources and natural environment. Despite the perception that Scotland receives regular rainfall, less than 1% of rainfall reaches land where it can be accessed. Coupled with increasingly frequent dry spells, many areas of Scotland are at risk of low water supplies.

Water efficiency and climate justice

It’s important to recognise that not everyone has the same access to water. For those living in fuel poverty in the UK, it can be hard to prioritise climate action over more pressing issues affecting day-to-day life. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable in society are also likely to suffer greater impacts from climate change and are less likely to have the resources to comfortably adapt. Taking steps to reduce our own water consumption and protect our natural resources helps everyone across society.

Water may seem like a constantly available resource, especially when the cost is fairly consistent and the taps remain ‘switched on’. Although the effects of water waste are not always visible to us, it’s important to recognise how our water use impacts other parts of the world, as well as the impact this is having on people who live with the immediate impacts of climate change.

Helping people to understand how and why they need to save water will increase efficiency and work towards delivering climate justice in the rest of the world.

Raising water saving awareness

In 2021-22, Home Energy Scotland – the Scottish Government-funded advice service managed by Energy Saving Trust – delivered the ‘Water is Always Worth Saving’ campaign in partnership with Scottish Water, providing water saving packs to over 14,000 households.

The project expanded delivery by identifying households at risk of fuel poverty and provided them with water saving devices. It also raised awareness around the link between saving energy and saving money and the benefits for the planet.

Investing in our planet

As our climate continues to change, it’s important that we recognise the value of the natural resources we have and consider how our usage affects people all around the world, and not just those immediately around us.

By managing our consumption sustainably, we can help mitigate the impact of future droughts, reduce our utility bills, and become more efficient in our use of natural resources.

Last updated: 22 April 2022