Sunday, 25 March 2012

Why a weather station in the front yard might help us deal with the coming drought

After a weekend of truly glorious weather it's worth reflecting on the climate chaos that's bringing severe drought to Brighton (and, of course, much of the UK).

A hosepipe ban across the region comes into force in about a week's time after the driest winter since 1992. I'm informed that all our city's water comes from aquifers under the chalky South Downs, and they are at their lowest March level for almost 50 years.

I've loved the sunshine: both yesterday and today have seen great crowds on Brighton's beaches (yes, even in Kemp Town!), and I've really enjoyed hanging out on the pebbles with my son.

But today we constructed a weather station too, so we can measure for ourselves the level of rainfall over the next few months, and, hopefully, have a conversation or two about the need to reduce our water usage: while mine is pretty good, my son still doesn't really get it yet when it comes to not leaving taps running while he's brushing his teeth and so on.

Every day the very act of measuring the previous day's rainfall will, I hope, change our relationship with water - and make Southern Water a little less likely to turn off the taps and make us trudge to a shared standpipe at the end of the street, an outcome that becomes a little more likely with every dry day and with every wasted drop of water.

Of course, using a little less water is only one part of the solution: the other being reducing the Greenhouse Gas emissions that scientists say are driving the increasing unpredictability of our weather in the first place. As a household, we do our bit, but that will, by itself, never be enough.

We need Government action: and with Labour and Tory councillors voting together to sack staff from Brighton Council's Sustainability Team in the quest for a short-term tax freeze, that'll be, locally at least, a lot harder now.

Nationally, with a budget designed to promote fossil fuels at the expense of renewables while talking up the need for new airport capacity in the South-East, it'll be even harder.

We might all be a few pence a week better off - but if we end up with standpipes in the street replacing the water supply to our homes that doesn't sound like a very good deal to me!

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