The water of life

Today – 22 March 2016 – is World Water Day.

World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then. (UN Water)

Here in the UK we’ve seen a lot of water over the winter. According to our rain gauge, we only had a single day without rain in November and December combined. More recently it has been much drier, but the ground is still quite soggy in places. Even so, we have continued with our water-saving activities.


Venus fly trap likes rainwater

From a purely financial perspective, this is sensible: our water is metered and we pay for what we use, so the less water that comes into our house from the mains, then smaller our bill. But this isn’t really our main incentive. There are several reasons we like to collect and use our rainwater, one of which is brand new this year, namely the acquisition of our insectivorous plants. Our little carnivores like their water as unprocessed as possible, and so we collect it in a water butt just outside the limery and use a ceramic jug to transport it direct to them. The Venus fly trap is certainly thriving on this treatment.

But that’s only a tiny reason – the main point is that processing water takes energy. Water does not come direct to you from a reservoir – it passes through a treatment plant before being delivered to your house via the water mains. This is what Welsh Water describe as the stages in treating water:

Screening – this is the first step in the treatment process where mechanical screens
remove some of the larger debris that can be found in rivers and reservoirs ie floating
material such as branches, twigs, leaves etc.

Clarification – a treatment chemical (coagulant) is added to the water which causes
smaller particles that remain from the screening process to cling together. This process is called coagulation. These particles build into larger clumps which then are easier to remove by allowing them to settle and fall to the bottom of the tank leaving cleaner water above.

Filtration – This is, in effect, an attempt to recreate nature’s own purification process.
The water is percolated down through a series of filters made up of a layer of fine sand and supported on layers of coarse sand and gravel. As the water passes through the filters, any remaining material is retained and the clear, filtered water is collected at the bottom. The filters are regularly cleaned and the resulting sludge which has collected is removed for disposal.

pH adjustment – sometimes it may be necessary to add chemicals to adjust the pH of
the water. Chemicals are added to correct the pH value and maintain consistent quality.

Disinfection – finally, the water must be disinfected to kill any remaining bacteria. This is usually done by adding chlorine or sodium hypochlorite and occasionally ozone. (from Water in Wales)

So all these things happen before we even see our water out of the tap*. And every step in the process requires energy and resources.


Collecting rainwater via a diverter on the downpipe

But why put water through all this if we just want to use it to flush the toilet or water our plants? There is simply no need to filter and add chemicals to water for many of the purposes that we put it to. And so, Chez Snail, we flush the toilet with rainwater. We also use rainwater  for tasks such as washing plant pots, sluicing away dirt and cleaning the chicken house. In addition, when the limery was built, most of the concrete was mixed using rainwater.

Just because we live in a place with plenty of water does not mean we should be profligate with it – especially  when it’s been through so much to get to us. So, we shall continue to use raw water as much as possible and minimise our use of tap water… saving money and doing another little thing to help save the planet.


* Just in case you are wondering, Welsh Water does not add fluoride to any of the water that it supplies.

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  1. Here, a large percentage of the population is not connected to a reticulated water supply due to remoteness. Either you have a bore drilled, or you catch your own, from the roof, and it is stored in tanks, either beside the house or underground. Our tropical rainfall is usually enough to ensure an ample supply, but further south and west it can be necessary to buy a tankerful of water from time to time. And in case you’re wondering if roof water comes complete with twigs, leaves, bird poop and other nutritious additions, most systems come with a ‘first flush’ process, whereby the first gush of water off the roof, which has washed all this stuff off, is diverted away from the tank. Tank water is usually delicious and unchlorinated, as well as being beautifully soft.


    • Interesting… I do have a friend in Devon who collects water from his roof for drinking – that gets passed through a ceramic filter which apparently works very well.


      • I use a ceramic filter for the stuff that comes out of the tap to get rid of the nasty smell and taste resulting from the treatment!


  2. Reblogged this on Cambridge Aromatherapy and Massage and commented:
    Reblogging this as water is so important. It is vital to both my bees (too much they can’t fly, too little hardly any nectar in the plants) but also to all the plants, trees etc that produce essential oils.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve become acutely aware of water in these past four years of drought. We’ve changed a lot of our behavior for the better as a result. We just added three rain catchment tanks to our side yard, and will use it in the garden all summer long. It is soft and clear and wonderful.

    Thank you for this inspiring post.



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