Following last month’s crisis meeting concerning the drought conditions across the south east of England and today’s announcement of imminent hosepipe bans, the RSPB is urging Kent’s residents to ‘Step up for Nature’ and save water in their homes and gardens.
A meeting last month was held by environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, with water companies, wildlife groups and farmers after the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology (CEH) stated that the average rainfall so far across Southeast England this winter has been the lowest since 1972.
Today Thames Water joins Southern, South East and Sutton and East Surrey Water in announcing hosepipe bans from next month.
Steve Gilbert, conservation programme manager for the RSPB South East, said: “This serious and prolonged drought has already had a big impact on RSPB wetland nature reserves across the region with dry conditions threatening to impact this spring’s breeding season at many sites.
“While we are taking steps to use water as efficiently as possible on our reserves, in the wider countryside prospects are bleak for wildlife that needs moist soil conditions and healthy rivers.
“Today’s announcement of a hosepipe ban is a clear signal that we all need to do our bit to reduce our impact on the environment and help avoid further damage. Saving water will ensure more stable, resilient habitats for the birds and other wildlife that depend on our water environments for their survival.”
According to the Met Office, there is only a 15% chance of the next three months being abnormally wet to help restock our reservoirs and aquifers.
So, with restrictions on water use in Kent imminent, what steps can people take to manage their water use?
Steve said: “Sometimes it’s obvious where we can save water such as collecting rainwater to water our gardens or taking showers instead of baths.
“Other times the water connection may be less obvious but it could be just as important for wildlife and the environment.”
The RSPB recommends dozens of little changes that you can make at home and in the garden, which will make a real difference to help save water, conserve energy, reduce waste, help protect our environment, and may even save you some money too. For example:
• Fix leaky taps and dripping hoses as soon as they break.
• Use a hosepipe with a trigger on it, not a sprinkler system, or better still use a watering can to water your garden.
• Water your garden in the evening and use mulches to reduce the loss of water through evaporation.
• Allow your lawn to grow longer between cutting, and don’t cut the grass too short, so that it is more resistant to drying out – this also provides a better habitat for insects and other wildlife.
• Install a water butt to collect rain water for watering the garden – many water companies and local councils offer good deals on water butts.
• Plant drought-resistant plants, eg hebes, lavenders, buddleias, rosemary – these are also great for attracting insects and other wildlife into your garden.
• As appliances or equipment wear out, replace them with water-saving models.
• When washing fruit and vegetables, use a bowl of water rather than running the tap and use it to water indoor plants or the garden
• Some larger toilet cisterns can continue to work effectively with a smaller flush. Place a brick or a full plastic water bottle in the cistern to reduce the flush volume. Alternatively, contact your water company for a water-saving device.

Saving water in the home and garden is just one of the ways you can ‘Step up for Nature’.
The RSPB’s ‘Stepping Up for Nature’ movement encourages everybody to take steps, no matter how big or small, in order to help protect nature and ensure the Government meets its target to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2020. For more information on what you can do visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup
More advice on saving water is available on the RSPB’s website www.rspb.org.uk/advice/green/water

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