How to Save Water, and the Cam

During the 2019 summer, the dry weather reduced our River Cam to little more than an elongated pond with a pathetic tickle over the weirs at Jesus Green. Some of the Cam tributaries dried up, many only flowing because they have been augmented by water from sewerage works

Over-abstraction of ground water has contributed to the drying-up of many of the springs that have fed our River Cam Chalk streams for millennia. Cambridge Water take 97% of their water from the chalk; Anglian Water abstract about 50% of their water from chalk aquifers to supply customers from Lincolnshire to the Thames. The rest comes from reservoirs. An ecological disaster is looming.  However, everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to try to lessen this crisis.

Things we can all do to help

The average water usage in England is 142 litres per person per day.  If water supply in low-rainfall high-growth Cambridgeshire is to be sustainable, this needs to be reduced to around 85 litres.  The Cam Valley Forum urges everyone to make a concerted effort to reduce the amount of water that they use, and here are 10 top tips.

  • Don’t flush every time you pee- ‘If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!’
  • Reduce quantity of water in WC cisterns, or if they are dual flush, use the lesser flush whenever appropriate. You can get bags to place in cisterns, they are more effective than a brick, and Cambridge water are giving them away, together with other water saving devices, go to- and select Home tab.
  • Fit aerators to taps. These add tiny soft bubbles that reduces the flow of water by about half while maintaining the water pressure, they can be fitted to most taps and cost between £2.50 and £6.99 per tap from The water feels nicer and soaks better.
  • Have brief showers instead of baths. Install water saving shower heads, Cambridge Water are giving away shower heads that limit flow to 8L/minute, but better still are Ecocamel  shower heads  which aerate the water for a better soaking shower, while using about half as much water.  They can be bought online for £27.99p.
  • Don’t run the tap when brushing teeth. Keep a jug of water in the fridge rather than running water until it is cool.
  • Use a bowl when washing-up and only use the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.When buying dishwashers and washing machines select ones that are water efficient. For example, energy star-rated dishwashers use about two thirds of the water that average dishwashers do.
  • Install water butts with drain downpipe connectors and water plants with rainwater or use waste water from the house.
  • Wash the car with a bucket and sponge rather than a hose.
  • If your water supply is not metered, apply to have a free smart meter installed. This gives an incentive to save water and is likely to save you about £150 pa on water charges.
  • Take prompt action to have any leaky appliances in the house, such as dripping taps or overflowing cisterns, repaired or replaced. Report any leaking water mains to the Cambridge Water Company on 0800 316 7676.