Individual vs. Legislative Approaches to Use of Water – Part 1

As you can tell by my previous post as part of blog on the water cost everything has, I believe in everybody’s power to make the most at having their voice heard.

Many people feel that what they can do when it comes to climate change or environmental depletion may be worthless, however I am of the opinion that when each person’s initiatives and actions are combined, the results can be truly meaningful and an aid to spur positive change in mindset, which can result in a lower virtual water footprint.

At the same time, my eyes and mind remain wide open: all it takes is one conversation to challenge my views and encourage me to think differently.

I had one of these conversations with a fellow student who also selected the Global Environmental Change module I’m taking at university as part of my Environment and Sustainable Development course. His views revolve around true powerful change lying in policy-making.

A metaphorical cookie was dropped in my mind and enabled me to consider a top-bottom approach point of view many times, and within different contexts, since. This is my initial surface scratch of finding out what is going on at that level, divided in two posts.

It’s fair to think that for virtual water most people would at least partially concede that our current use of water is simply unsustainable long-term.
On a planet where as little as 1% of fresh water is readily accessible and such great need for it is due to our great levels of relentless and constant production, something should be done, right?

A little bit of the Earth’s 1% fresh water, Piemonte, Italy

While most people I know do not really think of global water use and resources’ availability, especially because they are simply unaware, if they were aware, one argument could be that if such great use of water occurs but plays such a big part in the planet’s depletion of basic sources, how is it possible? How is it allowed? How is it legal?

My attention shifted towards water policies and regulations.

Trying to look at it from a political ecology perspective, I find that when it comes to water and its use, our societal system is made up of intricacies which link very different fundamental natural components – water in my case – which comes in different forms and is seized from a variety of geographical locations and in variable quantities according to local accessibility and potential.

This natural basic element is harnessed because of its primary use in our anthropocentric age, both for direct consumption and as a necessity in production and industry sectors.

This control and management of water is itself directed and determined by our system which links the environment, social and economic facets of our society within a capitalist, neoliberal ideology.

For my legislation-related search, I started off by looking into water privatisation in the UK and its effects since it took place in 1989, described as generally contrasting to the aim of increasing the efficiency of the water system.
Then I realised I should search regulations and their enforcement on an even bigger scale, at a higher, industrial level.

The Ofwat website, the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales, seemed to be a good start for my search.

The legislation section gives an insight of how efficient water use and regulations aimed at reducing the use and consumption, as well as the general management, of water has to fit within several bureaucratic structures.

Legislation covers different areas including environmental standards, economic regulation of the sector, water supply, flood and drought protection and adaptation.
In addition to that, Ofwat has to comply with different Acts of Parliament and European Directives. What readily comes to mind is that addressing these regulations in post-Brexit UK will probably be even more of a challenge, as water basins have no borders, after all.

What does this mean for use of water in the UK?
There is a lot of uncertainty, a term that we now hear on a daily basis.

Something which contributed to this unpredictable condition is that in April England followed Scotland’s footsteps in terms of deregulating, “giving businesses, charities and public sector organisations more choice over their water and waste water retail supplier.” (Business 
A course of actions described as a positive shift, such as increased competition, is likely to improve customer service…

(to be continued in Part 2)


3 thoughts on “Individual vs. Legislative Approaches to Use of Water – Part 1

  1. Hi Soph 🙂 It’s been aaaaaages 🙂 I think top-down has got to be the way to go for a lot of things, because I think as long as things are optional and non-enforceable, people will take easy routes. Even if we do actually care. It’s just easy to forget to think about stuff.


    • Hello Trish!! Thank you for your comnment, it has been too long indeed! I think you’re right, for some things top-down approaches really are the best method. I am learning this more and more by talking and experiencing different scenarios, even at home: there are so many issues, and people give these issues different priorities. As humans, we cannot seem to cope well with being mindful about every single thing. Meanwhile, I think it’s positive to be informed about these issues to have a think about them and create personal awareness, that way we can tweak our actions from a point of being better informed.


  2. Pingback: Individual vs. Legislative Approaches to Use of Water – Part 2 | billow

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