19 Jul 2008

Call for water conservation and drainage strategy

Below is my letter in response to the article in Stroud Life re the vote on rainwater harvesting - Labour sadness that Greens and Tories voted against - why I hear many cry? Well I would have loved to have supported it but the wording was not good - see more previously on my blog on this here. Indeed if we are to lead as a Council we must do it right - and that means being clear that water conservation is the number one priority.

Picture: From Water 21 by Dilly Eeles showing what is needed

Anyhow I have to applaud Stroud Life for their excellent look at the need for an holistic approach - something we have been pushing for with the Ruscombe Brook Action Group (RBAG) for nearly 3 years - it is great this issue is getting the coverage it deserves and I think is having an impact now that we have more community groups also speaking up - we need to start understanding the interdependence of upstream and downstream communities along a river catchment - as Julian Jones of Water 21 has said:

• The upstreamers extract too much water leaving little for all the downstreamers
• They pollute and poison the water upstream which hurts all those downstream
• They divert all their own floodwater downstream which deluges the downstreamers, etc.

That means that the water in our valley hear in Ruscombe and Randwick contributes to downstream problems like at Bridgend - and while I think it is important to be aware of climate change and it's impacts in all of this (particularly in the future) we must not underplay some of the main causes of the problems we face in terms of flooding and drought are related to the effects of 50 years of 'modern' farming and other drainage plus the effects of 4% pa increases in paved urbanisation and other civil engineering (much of it in flood plains).... anyhow here is my letter to Stroud Life:

Dear Editor,

Stroud Life reports Labour 'sadness' at those councillors who did not vote for rainwater harvesting to be introduced at Ebley Mill (9/07/08). Indeed the time to take water seriously has never been greater. This is echoed in the recent Pitt Review, reports that summer rainfall could decrease by 30 to 40% (i) and the Environment Agency this month strongly criticising companies on over abstraction of water from rivers and aquifers (ii).

The Labour motion to the Council was welcomed as it raised the issue of water conservation: a priority area that the Council admits it has failed to address properly. However the motion mistakenly focused only on rainwater harvesting. There is much water conservation needed first like cistern dams, leak detectors and tap regulators, then the next step is simple rain water harvesting like water butts, then the advanced rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling. Not to tackle conservation first is like putting solar panels on your home before insulating it.

Stroud can, and needs to do, much more on water conservation. Some Councils have saved big money by using less water. Rainwater Harvesting should be part of that: an exemplar project by the District which included maximising conservation, would be a positive way of leading by example.

However as Stroud Life showed in their excellent coverage of last years floods (16/07/08) we need a wider sustainable drainage strategy in the District that seeks to store and infiltrate water and protect us from floods and drought. As those flooded in Bridgend know, that means an holistic strategy that includes changes to our planning, farming, house building and more. In short an end to those of us upstream dumping on those downstream.

Cllr. Philip Booth, Stroud District Green Party.

PS During the 'Open Homes for a Sustainable Future' weekend on 13th and 14th September two rainwater harvesting schemes and a groundbreaking Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDs) will be on show to the public. See more at:

(i) See SUDs Planning application guidance at:
(ii) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/12/water.wildlife

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