Thursday, 10 May 2012

Springing Forward

By now, most of you will know my almost utter obsession with the coming longer days. I am so excited to say that we are officially in daylight savings time. Last month we "sprung forward" and I am loving it.

Living in London is fantastic. It's hard to believe that we're almost hear a full year, now. It has just flown by, due in no small part to the amazing weather that I have tracked in this blog. Naturally, I am excepting the entire month of April, which was the rainiest since records began. I wasn't in London for most of April and since we had lovely weather in Ireland, I am counting that instead. At the beginning of April, London instituted a hosepipe ban because we were in drought and even after all this rain, it would appear we're still in drought.

Shocking. How can that be? You read on quizzically. Well (ready yourself for an environmental rant, here), it's because all this lovely rain can't find its way into the ground because there's too much concrete and tarmacadam creating runoff. The rain falls and go straight into London's over worked Victorian aged sewers.

This amazed me as London has so many parks and is renowned for its green space. Hyde Park, Greenwich (I thought the entire borough was a park!), Kensington Gardens, Green Park, Regents Park, St. James's Park and the infinite number of private gardens in the ritzy neighbourhoods. Surely that would be earth to soak up a bit of rain? Nope. No it isn't.

There's also all this talk about allotments here, which is twice as interesting. People sign up to waiting lists, which can be years long, to get the use of a little plot of land to grow plants outdoors. So why all the bricked over patios? If all the terraced houses in London took up the stone in their little back gardens, imagine how much more earth would be exposed. I'm no environmental expert, but it seems to me that there are a couple of issues that would be easy enough fix and might make a difference to the water shortage.

Boston gets far less rain than London, but we only ever had droughts in the heart of the hottest driest summers - unlike any weather ever seen here. So why does Boston only have droughts in extreme weather, but London has had one beginning in late spring for the past two years running? Of course, I'm sure that the amount of rain actually falling from the sky has at least a minor role, but there are a couple of controllable factors, too.

As I've said, a little more appreciation of personal green space that's actually earth based, not just in pots and planters might not go astray. Get those fingers dirty!

But, how about conservation? Everywhere in Boston, you seen water saving measures; low flow shower heads (no, no compromise in how it feels, just as powerful), low flow toilets, aerators on all the taps (they mix air with the water so you use less) and eco-friendly appliances. Now more enthusiastic people like me also go in for dual flush toilets and rainwater barrels, but perhaps the most effective method of conservation is the good old water meter.

My North American readers are probably now looking quizzically at their computers screens, but, indeed, not everyone has water meters here. I should clarify that I do mean ordinary city homes, here, not country homes with their own wells. We haven't had a water meter in either of the flats we've lived in in London. We pay a water bill, but it's a flat rate, not based on the amount we use. The system practically encourages people to use as much water as possible. If you don't, you're not getting your value for money.

I want to propose what will no doubt be a controversial idea: Water meters for all. You use it, you buy it. See how fast sales of water saving devices increase when people have to pay for all those little droplets. Not to be soon, I fear.

Instead, London will build bigger sewer pipes, dump more into the Thames and look out the door at the rain bouncing off their bricked over patios while they fill their watering cans at the sink for the indoor potted plants.

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