Water-friendly fun in the garden this summer
Fancy a drink of water? Unlike 844 million people around the globe, in the UK we quite literally have clean drinking water available on tap, and that has perhaps led us to underappreciate this vital resource.
Taking water for granted can often result in using more water than we actually need, especially in the garden during the summer. Maintaining a 'perfect' green lawn, keeping overly sensitive plants alive, washing down dusty surfaces and filling up those paddling pools and hot tubs – all of this increases demand on our limited water stocks.
Water companies pump as much of this as possible from natural underground water stores called aquifers and from purpose-built reservoirs, however when demand is high and stocks are low due to the increasingly dry climate, household supplies have to be topped up with millions of litres of water siphoned from lakes and rivers. Yes, the same lakes and rivers that support some of our most unique and fragile wildlife habitats.
Taking water for granted can often result in using more water than we actually need...
Can you reduce the amount of water you use outdoors this year?
>> Let the lawn go brown – grass will go into a dormant mode during very dry weather, but will shoot back up green with the next rain.
>> Plant low-maintenance, drought-resistant bedding plants such as alyssum, geraniums, marigolds and petunias. Look at dry planting schemes for inspiration.
>> Use a watering can, bucket, sponge and broom for watering and outdoor cleaning. Avoid wasteful hoses, sprinklers and pressure washers.
Fun in the sun – the water-friendly way
If your idea of garden time well-spent is more about relaxing and playing, less about pruning and odd-jobbing, the water-saving message still applies.
Paddling pools, super-soaker water guns, hose pipe water slides, water balloons and the more grown-up inflatable hot tubs and pop-up pools can do for thousands of litres of drinking water in an afternoon. Even a low-sided 6ft paddling pool holds around 750 litres of water – that’s enough to fill 10 baths!
Even a low-sided 6ft paddling pool holds around 750 litres of water – that’s enough to fill 10 baths!
If you can’t resist, you can help to make it up to the environment by reusing as much of the water as possible: give all your garden plants and house plants a really good drink; use up a few bucketfuls for cleaning jobs both indoors and out, and remember that you can also reuse ‘secondhand’ grey water for flushing the toilet.
To make resistance a little easier, here are some suggestions for water-friendlier garden activities:
>> Switch the paddling pool for a sand pit – 100% reusable!
>> Switch the water guns for DIY paper aeroplanes – compost or recycle them afterwards
>> Switch the hose pipe water slide for a home-made obstacle course – bring out all your random bats, balls, shuttlecocks, frisbees and skittles and challenge the kids to come up with a game
>> Switch the water balloons for a garden safari – teach your kids how to identify and care for garden wildlife
>> And, grown-ups, switch the inflatable hot tub or pop-up pool for a cool chill-out canopy – rig up a quick DIY awning using a sheet and some strong twine, spread out the loungers or blankets, add a few pillows, a good book and a glass or two of something chilled. Bliss!