Thursday, 4 October 2012

Where Has The Water Gone?

Two headlines caught my attention today.

The first was from Tuesdays Glasgow Evening Times:

Save water plea ... after wet summer

It was about Scottish Water's recently launched campaign to encourage people to save water. The reason for this campaign is not a shortage of water but a drive to save energy in treatment and pumping of the water. While I do support any measures that we can take to reduce energy use and carbon emissions, I feel that this is Scottish Water trying to pass the responsibility on to the public rather than dealing with their own wasteful inefficiencies.  They lose more water through leakage than the total domestic consumption, as noted here, so whatever individuals do to save a little bit of water is nothing compared with the amount leaking from pipes.  The volume of water lost through leakage will not reduce even if the volume used by consumers is reduced significantly, in fact it may increase as the pressure in the system would increase (leakage is higher at night when water demand reduces for this very reason). 

This brings me on to the second headline, from Dundee's Courier:

'Void the size of a double decker bus' under main Dundee street

A large void was discovered below Albert Street, a major road in to Dundee, after a pothole opened up last weekend.  The void has been caused by an undetected leaking water main, the water from which has scoured the soil from beneath the road surfacing resulting in a dangerous situation.  It is fortunate that nobody was injured when the road began to collapse.

Void below Albert Street, from The Courier
  We do not know how long the pipe here has been leaking and how much treated water has leaked out but that isn't the biggest issue.  The bigger issue in this case is the consequential impact.  The collapse happened on a main road with high traffic flows which will be temporarily diverted on to secondary streets that are less well suited to buses and HGVs.  The additional carbon emissions caused by the ensuing congestion are likely to be much higher than the carbon emissions wasted by the leaking water, however, these emission will not be considered as part Scottish Water's total emissions from providing potable water. If the leakage had been detected earlier, the extent of road repairs would be less and repair of the main could be planned to take place during a quiet period, with only part of the road closed and with a suitable series of diversionary routes which would mitigate the effects of the leak.

If Scottish Water seriously wants to reduce their carbon footprint they need to get their own house in order by improving leakage detection with a follow up repair programme.  In the meantime, you can help them out by turning the tap off when you brush your teeth - shaving perhaps a whole kilogramme of your annual carbon footprint, less than 1/10 000th of the typical UK carbon footprint!

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