Precious water

We drink it, we bathe in it, we cook and clean with it, water our plants and have fun with it. But do we use too much?

Cambridge water comes from an aquifer that also feeds streams and rivers including the River Cam. These videos and activities from Transition Cambridge will show you the effects of our consumption on the environment and what we can do about it. You will hear from Cllr Katie Thornburrow, from Cambridge City Council, and Ruth Hawkesley from the Wildlife Trust as well as members of Transition Cambridge. You can also experiment with an animated aquifer and use our water calculator to see where the water goes in your home).

What is the chalk aquifer and why is it important?

In summer 2019 the chalk aquifer that we use for our water supply reached a record low level and the effects on the streams that it normally supplies were devastating. Nicola asked Ruth Hawksley from the Wildlife Trusts why these streams are so important and how this situation came about. There are a number of factors including population growth and climate change. Ruth also explains what Cambridge Water is doing to help, and why this is not an entirely effective solution.

How does our water use affect streams and vegetation?

Here is an animated simulation of how our water use affects streams and vegetation. It shows how water taken from the aquifer lowers the water table, so that streams dry up and trees do not get enough water. When it rains again, the aquifer is replenished. You can also see what happens when Cambridge Water pumps directly into some of the streams to maintain the flow. After watching the video you might like to try driving the simulation yourself.

What Cambridge City Council are doing

Katie Thornburrow from Cambridge City Council talks about how the council views the problem and what can be done. She describes the crisis forum she initiated and some of the outcomes. The council commissioned an integrated management study which looked at options including bringing in water from other areas, and encouraging farmers to give up their abstraction licenses. Water efficiency in new homes is also very important and the development of Eddington, in North East Cambridge, demonstrates what can be done – but the council does not have the powers they need to enforce appropriate standards.

Where could you save water?

Explore your water use at home and how much you could save with this water use calculator. The calculator includes taps and toilets, showers and baths, washing machine, dishwasher, watering the garden and car washing. It shows you how much you use (per person per day) for the different activities. And you can see what difference you can make by installing simple measures or adjusting your habits.

More things you can do:

More information:

Transition Cambridge

Transition Cambridge aims to help Cambridge make the transition to ways of life that are more resilient in the face of rising energy prices and a changing climate. Our activities relate to food, recycling, nature, energy and water.

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