The Guardian recently reported that we're likely to be heading into a drought this spring. This might seem strange in a country where it seems to be raining constantly. Also, in the middle of winter, water saving doesn’t tend to be on the top of peoples’ agenda.

So, why is it that in the middle of winter we need to talk about water saving? 

Last spring, households in Southeast England were urged to begin saving water following the driest autumn / winter in 20 years.  This was to try and avoid drought measures in the summer such as hosepipe bans. Whilst it didn’t get to this point in 2017, following a dry start to the winter with a little over half the average rainfall between October and December, there has been a significant impact on the flow of rivers as well as groundwater reserves, which act as “water banks” for water suppliers. For instance, water supplier Affinity Water, that we’ve been working with on the #TapChat campaign, gets 60% of their water from groundwater reserves.

The South East is being particularly affected because it’s home to an incredibly dense population of high water users in an area that sees lower rainfall than the rest of the country. 

Why there a risk of drought

You might think that a few days of heavy rainfall is a quick fix to water shortage, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. Even though some of the water we drink in the Southeast is collected from rivers and surface water, a large amount of our tap water comes from aquifers - layers of chalk which trap water soaking down from the soil and ground above.

Aquifers only fill up from rainfall during autumn and winter, when there is less plant growth and evaporation. October to March is when rainfall is expected to reach the aquifers.

Even with the wet December, we had a drier than average start to the autumn, so we need a lot more rain for the rest of the winter to reduce the risk of drought.

The journey of a single drop

While drought might seem bizarre to many, it’s a reality that may become more likely if the UK continues to experience dry and mild autumn / winters. Plentiful, clean and easy to access water is, wonderfully, a given part of daily life in the UK and it’s easy to forget that the water coming out of our taps is part of an intricate and changing weather system. 

So how does the water even end up in our tap you ask? This is what we looked at in our “where does water come from” vlog last year – check it out here. Despite climate change, water companies are working very hard to make their water sources and networks more and more resilient. In the Southeast, consumption of water is still really high, combined with a growing population and less rainfall than the rest of the country, this is putting real pressure on our water resources. We need a national debate about how we use water.

What can we all do to save water?

On average, each of us use around 150 litres of water a day, most of which is spent on personal hygiene such as showering, bathing, brushing teeth and flushing the toilet.

Saving water can be as simple as turning the tap off when cleaning your teeth, yet 2 in 3 people don’t think they can use less water. That’s why we’ve been starting a #TapChat conversation about water habits, urging people to make small changes that make a big difference such as shortening their morning shower by just 2 minutes (if we all did this we’d save 8 billion litres of water per week) or using the right button on a dual flush toilet.

For more tips on saving water, time and money, make sure you join the #TapChat and take the #TapChat Quiz to find out what kind of water user you are.