Water butt that is! I think both my water butts work quite hard but having done the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s survey maybe I could use them a little more. The WWT are asking us to complete a quick survey to see how well we use our butts and I would encourage you to spare 5 minutes to take part by following this link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/J6M3X85 and answer a few short questions.
Why are the WWT are trying to encourage us to use our water butts more? The reason is simple we use far too much treated tap water on things where collected rainwater would work just as well, and in some cases better. Given the changes to our weather patterns due to climate change we need to reduce our reliance on tap water to water our gardens. Apparently on hot summer days 70% of the UK’s water supply is used to water gardens. Another fact that throws a startling light on things is that if every household in the UK got a standard water butt (and worked it!) this would save about 30,000 million litres of water each summer – that’s enough to fill approximately 12,000 Olympic sized swimming pools, which is just a huge amount of water and would reduce the strain on reservoirs in the summer when on warm days 50% of the treated drinking water supply is used to water gardens and lead to hose pipe bans in various parts of the country.
But it isn’t just because we have hot weather, after all we have had many hot summers over the years and I well remember 1976 when the cracks in the soil were like chasm. Our weather patterns are changing in a way that means that we have more extreme weather. I have noticed this in particular since I moved to Worcestershire in 2000, over the last 11 years the frequency of the River Severn has increased and there has been an increased occurrence of flooding in towns. I strongly believe that we bring a lot of these problems on ourselves through the obsession with non-permeable surface covering. You see housing estates on television which have been flooded and the amount of grass or soil is minimal compared to the brick paved front gardens. The water can not soak away, it has nowhere to go apart from down the drain which were not designed to cope with such huge amounts of water in such a short time and so it floods. Two 250 litres water butts are enough to cope with the first 1cm of rainfall off a 50m2 roof, equivalent to a moderate summer rainstorm, this reduces the amount of water going into drains; if all households did this the strain on the drains would reduce and the risk of flooding.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that rainwater is better for your plants than tap water (with the exception of seedlings) since tap water can have chemicals in it to make it drinkable. Rain water is preferable to tap water for topping up ponds in the summer since if you add tap water to the pond you disturb the balance of the eco-system and this can lead to algae and other problems and indeed more work for the gardener.
What I hadn’t thought about was to use the water in my water butts for cleaning the car – but to be honest I’m not very good at doing this. I also realised that I didn’t know which reservoir feeds my water supply and I would have no idea if levels were high or not. So even someone like me who thinks they are quite proactive in working with nature has stuff to learn.
As I have said the WWT want to encourage us to use our water butts better and will be launching a competition in March during their Festival of Gardening (more of that in a later post). However in the run up to this they are running a survey in order to up date the findings from 3 years ago and would like as many people to participate as possible so they get a good picture of how we use them. In order to encourage participation all people who complete the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win a year’s free subscription to the WWT – quite a nice prize I think! So take 5 minutes to click on the link above and fill in the survey.