Browsing Tag



“Water is the least considered factor in the Nexus”

March 22, 2014

RTEmagicC_WWD_2014_logo_EN_01.jpgMarch 22nd is World Water Day but what should that mean to us other than it’s just another ‘Day’ with another ‘Title’?

For many it’s a reason to highlight the very real and critical challenges the population of the planet are facing in terms of water and how it interconnects with food, energy and global warming or in other words – the Nexus.

Nexus is a word you’re likely to hear more about over the coming years as it’s a relatively new (and strikes me as obvious) way of thinking that recognises the critical interdependence of water, energy and food. The short video clip below from the IIEA video explores the deep connections between the three essential resources and highlights the need for nexus thinking to help meet the world’s needs, as it grows from 7 to 9 billion by 2050.

(The Environment Nexus project is co-financed by the European Parliament)

To survive the impending environmental crisis and our increasing dependence on water and energy as the global population grows, decision makers are going to have to talk and agree with one another as well as engage with all communities, from industrial, business and local as well as global, and discuss integrated approaches and solutions to water-energy-food issues.

Breakdown of global freshwater use

Source: World Water Development Report 2012 –

Irrigation for Agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater withdrawls

UN Water reports that “water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for around 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals, even up to 90 percent in some fast-growing economies. The world population is expected to rise from 7 billion people today to 9 billion in 2050, leading to a 60% increase of the food needed globally and a 19% increase of agricultural water consumption.”

It strikes me that it’s going to take some very strong leadership qualities to pull off a combined wind-energy-food policy that’s not worried about votes and re-elections but has the interest of the planet in mind and not just those of the of rich and powerful energy and agribusiness’. It’s also going to take a shift in our own perceptions in that we’re going to have to wake up and accept that life isn’t always going to be as comfortable as we’ve known it.

world water day

“Water and energy are among the world’s most pre-eminent challenges. This year’s focus of World Water Day brings the issues to the attention of the world,” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization and Chair of UN-Water, which coordinates World Water Day and freshwater related efforts UN system-wide. “These issues need urgent attention – both now and in the post-2015 development discussions. The situation is unacceptable. It is often the same people who lack access to water and sanitation who also lack access to energy, ” said Mr. Jarraud.



The 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR) – a UN-Water flagship report, produced and coordinated by the World Water Assessment Programme, which is hosted and led by UNESCO – is released on World Water Day as an authoritative status report on global freshwater resources. It highlights the need for policies and regulatory frameworks that recognize and integrate approaches to water and energy priorities.

If you’d like to view the report or find out more about World Water Day and why it’s so important that we all begin to understand the Nexus way of thinking, and begin to engage in collaborative discussions about it, please take a few minutes to look at the UN Water Day website and some of the links and videos it recommends.

It’s really quite eye-opening and even if your interest is only brief, at the very least it may urge you to think twice before flushing that toilet so readily or rinsing vegetables under a running tap, and may help to give an understanding of the energy it takes to allow you to do just that.

*World Water Development Report 2012

Community Gardens

Guest Post ~ How to Introduce Child-Friendly Water Features into Community Gardens

July 8, 2012

water feature for garden

Do you have a water feature in your garden (community or otherwise) or have you avoided it because of safety issues?

Ewan Michaels is this month’s guest blogger and he currently works for UK Water Features who are a solar water pumps provider. Ewan enjoys gardening in his spare time and thinks that child safety should be a top priority when designing or modifying a garden. 

A decorative water feature that has moving water increases the appeal of any garden. Water is soothing to watch and hear as it flows, trickles and splashes. Every gardener who installs a water feature is fully responsible for it. Gardeners who participate in community gardens are even more responsible due to the access the public has as well as the fact that other volunteer gardeners will likely participate in maintaining any water feature installed.

Community Gardens

The idea of the community garden goes back to antiquity but has only seen a resurgence since the 1960s. Plots of land in villages and cities are turned into everything from a productive vegetable garden that provides food to havens for wildlife. Most gardens attract the public due to their organized beauty and the peaceful serenity they offer to visitors. Young children visiting these gardens have various levels of supervision depending on the guardian accompanying them. It’s important to keep this in mind when adding anything to a community garden.

black slate water feature

Child-Friendly Water Feature Basics for Community Gardens

Beyond the child safety concerns that will be considered, there is a need to follow a fundamental common-sense approach to any water feature. Drought-prone areas are no stranger to seasonal hose pipe bans. Large water features may run dry during the hottest part of the season right when a ban is in effect. Features that require smaller amounts of water that can be easily and legally kept filled are a benefit. Also, an approved pump connected to an approved and inspected electrical source is a must. Annual inspections may also be required depending where the garden is located.

Child-specific concerns include that the water feature be constructed of a material that cannot be broken even if a child should decide to climb on it. The water feature must also be installed in a manner that it would be impossible for it to tip over if a child should climb on it. The issue is that a strong material that can support weight is usually heavy. Heavy materials falling over can cause serious injuries or even fatalities. No one wishes to bear that concern.

Choose a water feature that is too small for a child to crawl into, yet large enough that the water movement creates visual and sound appeal. Pond style features have the risk of accidental drowning. Birdbath type features are interesting and are considered to be much safer. Regardless of the water feature decided upon, be sure to consider it from a child’s perspective. Consider every bit of trouble a child could get into when at play near it.

Funny to read of hose pipe bans and drought with all the rain we’ve had over the past few weeks but it’s not that long ago our water butts were empty! We just can’t guarantee the weather in any of our seasons over recent years so it pays to think beyond the here and now.

A wildlife pond is top of my list of improvements in my own garden but I really like the  ball water feature above which will provide light, reflection and be a lot easier to install too. What do you think? Do you have a pond or water feature in your garden? 


Green, Lifestyle

Water … and life in the Irish rural slow lane

November 25, 2011

2001 – our home

I was passed a link this morning by Roisin from Creative Dynamix that immediately reminded me of when we first moved to the top of our hill and the months we spent at our site without water.


An oasis but no running water on site…

Many rural dwellers will have an inkling about how it feels to be without the  precious resource of water.  Most of us who live outside of the towns and villages rely on electric pumps that live in the bottom of deep wells to draw up our water.

Whenever there’s a power cut we not only lose our lights and electricity, but also our water supply (and if, like us you have to rely on an electrically powered heating system, we lose that too).


Our kitchen (2000) – lots of work ahead

When we first moved up to our abandoned, unloved old house in the summer of 2001 there were no modern facilities.

The stories are that two elderly women lived in the farmhouse full of laughter and music until the mid 1980’s (when I was living in the UK and taking all my mod cons for granted…)

It was the place where the local children used to bunk off school and hide away from their parents until it was time to return home. They’d chat, sing and stomp their feet to the playing and have their bellies filled with bowls of soup, laddled from a pot that was suspended upon the old crane, stewing above the open fire in the dark, peat warmed kitchen.

Every day, and several times a day I imagine, the elderly ladies would take it in turns to fill a container with water from the nearby spring that is now almost hidden in the bank down the lane and carry it back up to the house for their supplies.


Levelling the kitchen floor…. no power tools here

When Mr G, two children under 3, two dogs, two cats and I turned up to start our new life in a one bedroomed mobile home in the front courtyard of the old farmhouse, it was to conditions we were unfamiliar with. (Just as well we were used to camping holidays!)

We were lucky in that we didn’t have to collect our water from the spring. Our neighbouring farmer had an outside tap that we hauled containers backwards and forwards to everyday. Still, it wasn’t the cleanest of water but we filtered it the best we could for drinking.  Our mobile home didn’t have provisions for hot water either, so for 18 months and another baby later, all our hot water came via boiled kettles.

WATER … AND LIFE IN THE IRISH RURAL SLOW LANEWhen the 300ft well was finally drilled and Mr G had plumbed a tap into the shed, we turned it on for the first time and spent the day rejoicing.

We did and still do have an abundance of dry, stone sheds  so it was not long after turning on the first tap, that we installed a shower and a handbasin next to the outside loo, thereby ending the family trip to the swimming pool for a weekly clean  (first) then bathe… However, we quickly learnt that two flushes of the outside toilet emptied all the water from the containers, giving us a hands-on insight into how many litres of water are wasted daily, literally being flushed away.

I’ll never forget the dark, January morning that I headed out to our chilly shower, stripped off, lathered up and the water froze… or the way that all the cold water droplets used to spill onto you when your shut the clear, plastic sheet door that Mr G had built around the little cubicle to try and keep the drafts out.

It was almost two and a half years after first moving to our site that we were finally able to switch on a tap in an inside bathroom and hot water came out of it.

By then our youngest daughter was more than a year and a half old and a basin full of water would entertain our middle daughter for hours. The experience was powerful and has resulted in us never taking water for granted.

Now my dream kitchen, hand built by Mr G is finished. We thank the dishwasher daily and enjoy stove cooked meals rather than the daily menu’s I had to conjour up for the family on two gas rings.

WATER … AND LIFE IN THE IRISH RURAL SLOW LANEBack to the link. It was for Environment Africa, an inspiring organisation who’s mission is to

work together with all sectors of society raising awareness, encouraging action and advocating a better environment that uplifts the livelihood of current and future generations.

What a positive mission statement! That single sentence encapsulates so much but is one that could be echoed in all countries around the world, including our own.

Environment Africa called for everyone to take a challenge – a very difficult challenge as it happens…

Switch off your water at the main source in your home for 24 hours.

The closest point at which you could walk to fetch water must be a minimum of 1 kilometer away from your home, no hopping in your car and driving, you must walk.

Sounds simple enough, but I challenge you to do it, for 24 hours and it will give you a new perspective on how we take water for granted and how we cannot live without it.  For many people living in rural communities, this is not a 24 hour challenge, but an every day reality with people having to walk many kilometres each day to fetch water.”

So how did the thought of that make you feel? Did you get a shiver down your spine at the inconvenience that living without water would cause? Are you prepared to take that challenge? Being aware of just how much water we use daily is a start in appreciating just how precious this resource is.


10 Tips for Saving Water

November 5, 2011
dripping water

Photo Credit: UltraBobban

Water, water everywhere – or so we’d like to think, particularly after the recent floods. However, during early October and for the first time since we’ve lived on the top of the hill, our well ran dry and we suffered a water shortage. It was a bit of  a shock as we’ve had such a wet summer (again) but the taps stopped flowing and our appliances flashed ‘no water’ alerts, despite being A rated.

We have a deep well, almost 300 ft and have never experienced a water shortage. Chatting to the shopkeeper in the local village however, we weren’t alone – several residents at the bottom of the hill had suffered a shortage too. In a way it’s not surprising with the demands of modern-day life putting pressures on our supplies. Most households in Ireland now have dishwashers, washing machines, showers and baths, all demanding an instant water supply from water fit for drinking, and as much as people dislike the idea of water meters being installed, it will make us think about how much we’re using..

So what can gardeners do to help to preserve our precious drinking water?

10 Tips for Saving Water:

1. Fix leaky taps, hoses or pipes in your property – fixing a leak can save up to 1,135 litres (300 gallons) of drinking water a month.

2. Spread organic mulch around plants as this helps to retain moisture.

3. Valve off outside taps during frosty winter months but leave tap open (to prevent pipes bursting).

4. Wash fruit and vegetables in a bowl and not under a running tap and use the water from the bowl to water plants.

5. Collect water from your roof gutters to water the garden. There are many types of attractive water containers for this purpose or you can recycle – we installed a system this year using a discarded builders container and our old well pipe.

6. Install a timed irrigation system for watering plants/polytunnels/containers.

Upcycle a Belfast Sink to collect water

7. Upcycle an old hand basin. Place a sink under an outside tap for rinsing pots, vegetables etc.

8. Adjust mower settings. When cutting your lawn, adjust your mower to a higher setting – a longer lawn shades the roots and prevents it drying out as quickly.

9. Water plants only when necessary. More plants die from over watering than under watering.

10. Switch off the tap. Finally when you’re washing your hands after a hard day’s gardening, put the plug in the sink rather than letting the tap run.

If householders are doing their bit, what are the scientists doing about the water crisis? I enjoyed watching this recent news clip telling us how solar panels are being used to convert sea water.

What do you do? Do you have any more tips for saving water in the garden?

Photo credit: ultraBobban via photopin cc



July 9, 2011

We complain when there’s too much and when there’s not enough. It’s not until there’s no rain at all that we appreciate just how much we need it, how much the earth needs it.

Here in the Perigord region of France there’s been an official drought for over a month now. The lakes are drying up and the rivers are flowing slowly.

In Ireland we’re not used to the word ‘drought’. We find it unsettling when we haven’t had any rain for a couple of weeks, but even then our temperatures aren’t hot enough to bake the soil so dry its dust when you walk through it.

Today it rained in Champagne-et-Fontaine and the birds are singing. The steam rises from the grass and you can almost imagine the roots reaching for what little thirst quenching nourishment they can find. For the past month here the temperatures have been in their 30s, even 40s on some occasions. As pale skinned tourists we’ve loved the heat, basked in it with nothing else to do but smother ourselves in suntan lotion, read, relax and swim in the fresh water rivers with the dragonflies and tiny fish.

However, as a gardener I feel for the people here, the plants and the wildlife. What can you do when all the water-butts are empty, there’s a hose pipe ban and water becomes such a precious commodity that the allotmenteers have to pee in their watering cans?

Nothing – there’s nothing you can do. You just have to be patient and try not to despair as you watch your vegetables wither. You have to wait for some rain to fall soon and maybe if you’re that way inclined, pray.

Hopefully it will rain some more here and hopefully it will be during the night-time because, lets face it, we’re only human and don’t really want to spend our days in the rain. But when the grey clouds do cover the blue sky and the raindrops fall we will rejoice that for now everyone and eveverything is smiling.