- Water is essential for all life; every species on the planet relies on water in some form.
- We rely on water for growing food.
- Access to clean water is essential for good health.
- For many people, water has spiritual and/or cultural value.
- We use water for recreation and fun.
- We use water to travel, and to transport good.
Across much of Aotearoa New Zealand, we are lucky enough to have good access to drinkable water; often just at the turn of a tap.
But how aware are we of the processes, effort and resources that allow us to just turn on our taps and have this water? And how aware are we of what we are putting back into our water when we send it down the drain?
In Kirikiriroa, Hamilton all of our supplied water is abstracted from the Waikato River. 60-100 million litres per day, on average. It all goes through a 10-step process to make sure it is potable, and this uses a lot of energy and resources (though ironically, 95% of it is not drunk).
Then, of course, once it leaves the tap it usually quickly goes straight down the drain – and often with added chemicals.
Water makes up the largest proportion of our rates/local taxes, and the cost continues to rise as we abstract more and more water, and put more and more strain on resources.
There are three ways we will look at here:
- Reducing our water use
- Being careful what we put in our waste water
- Support water care projects.
Reducing our water use
Michelle Templeton, the Smart Water Co-Ordinator at Hamilton City Council says there are 5 R's to follow to maximise water efficiency and reduce wasting water.
The Smart Water website has lots of easy ideas for how households can cut their water consumption in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry and garden.
Being careful what we put in our waste water
Unlike the 10-step process water goes through before it reaches our taps, it undergoes a much less rigorous process before it is returned back into the river. In Aotearoa New Zealand, waste water treatment mainly phosphates, e. coli, and solid waste. Everything else goes back into the ecosystems and environment.
It can be a good (though scary) exercise to consider all the different products we put down drains and look at their ingredients. Many products, such as drain deblockers, toilet fresheners and cleaning products, even state on the label that they are ecotoxic or toxic to aquatic life. And where do we put these products? Right into our aquatic ecosystems.
Diane Millow from The Dairy Farmers Daughter is very knowledgeable of the different chemicals we - households - put down our drains and on our body's largest organ, our skin. For years she has been making her own cleaning and cosmetic products out of natural ingredients, and she says the benefits are manifold.
Diane runs MAKE (Making A Kinder Environment) workshops, where she demonstrates making your own cleaning and cosmetic products. She also shares great resources on her Facebook page.
EarthEasy have created an excellent resource for people wanting to try making their own eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products. For cosmetic and make up products, The Coconut Mama and The Wellness Mama are great resources.
Support water care projects
Around the world, people, communities and organisations are working to protect and restore streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, seas and oceans. Wherever you are in the world, there will most probably be local projects you can support.
And if there aren't, a) there are international organisations working to protect our waters (such as
The Nature Conservancy and WWF), and/or b) you can start your own project.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, there is a big focus on native riparian planting (planting native species along waterways) because riparian planting has many benefits to areas with water challenges.