Water use has increased massively in the heatwave. Affinity Water which supplies 3.6 million people in the south-east has reported that during the hot weather, use has increased from an average of 900 million litres a day to 1,200 million litres.

Changing lifestyle habits have played a part in the surge in demand. Recent polling by Hubbub found that in the first weekend of July an estimated 3.9 billion litres of water will go down the drain due to the trend for cheap super-sized paddling pools. The average pool now needs 530 litres of water to be filled – that is over three times the daily amount of water usually needed by one person.

Polling by Hubbub suggests that the majority of people won’t give much thought about the water required. Our survey discovered that 76% of households are not concerned about the amount of water they use and only a third felt they could use less water if needed.



 

There are a host of reasons why this lack of concern exists. The UK is perceived as a rainy country, historically people have not paid for the amount of water they use and there is an overwhelming belief that it is entirely up to the water companies to provide the water demanded.

This is not an accurate picture. Up until earlier this year the south-east of England was facing potential drought. An exceptionally wet March and April replenished groundwater resources meaning that supply is currently not a major problem in some areas – although getting the water to customers in sufficient quantity to meet existing high demand is challenging.

The reality is that the south-east of England is playing a game of Russian roulette with water supplies relying on consistent rainfall to replenish stocks in order to meet summer demand. With an increasingly erratic climate, a growing population and above average demand in the region the odds are looking increasingly risky. The implications are significant, just look around the world at Cape Town, California or India to see the profound effect a shortage of water can have on societies.

Change is required at all levels but households need to play their part. Somehow our culture needs to change from seeing water as something of low value available to meet our every whim. This could take some time. Hubbub research found that even basic water saving messages are not persuading people to change habits. More than half of the people surveyed leave the tap running whilst cleaning their teeth, washing the vegetables or cleaning dishes.

To create a new debate about water, Hubbub has worked with Affinity Water and SES Water to launch #TapChat.

The campaign is different from previous water campaigns for four reasons:

1) It seeks to provoke conversations about hidden water habits.

How long do you spend in the shower? How often do you clean your sheets? A simple quiz and short videos provoke discussion and encourage people to consider changing behaviour to be less wasteful. This is different to the more preachy ‘Turn the tap off’ type messaging that is currently prevalent.



2) Interactive displays are getting messages to the mainstream.

A large portable display asks people to place stickers on a board showing how long they shower, a park bench asking the same question invites people to sit at the place on the bench that marks the length of their showers.

3) We are asking people to consider the value of water and what life would be like if it was in short supply.

Posters at railway stations highlight the need for water in everyday items. Two videos show how water reaches our taps and the impact taking too much water can have on rivers.

4) We are promoting better designed and more aspirational products to help people save water

We've been providing households with products such as digital shower timers, dry shampoo and washing up bowls to see what impact these have on water use.

As our climate becomes unpredictable, the availability of water in the south-east will be one of the first indicators that we are putting too much pressure on our environment. Water is not an endless resource and households will have to change their behaviours accordingly – perhaps the days of the super-sized paddling pools are numbered.

Ready to join the #TapChat? Dive into learnings to date and the thinking behind the targetted #TapChat campaign flowing through Sutton