It’s in the water

Here in the UK, we have a bit of a wastewater issue. Environmental campaigner Feargal Sharkey has been haranguing the various water companies about their overflows into the rivers and waters around the British Isles, and how the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension fund and others invest in privatised companies such as Thames Water, which seems to prioritise dividends over delivering clean water. (twitter @Feargal-Sharkey)

I thought I liked him when he sang about a good heart back in the 1980s, but we now think the world of him. As a Thames Water customer, I am somewhat dumbfounded that they can discharge raw sewage into waterways, but it seems they’re all at it. And rather interestingly, Thames Water has an interactive map where you can see the real time discharges. ( Try not to think about it when you next go wild swimming. I know I am always a bit cautious after a heavy rainfall too, but I’m in the actual Thames at least once a year now.

In dairy, we have long dealt with the issue of wastewater management through the supply chain. For example, Dairy UK’s Dairy Roadmap and its implementation of benchmarks to improve environmental outlooks has resulted in a 24 per cent increase in water efficiency since it began in 2008. Of course, we realise we have more to do as an industry.

As a Bloomberg report shows, more than half of the UK’s land is devoted to agriculture, which is impressive by any standards. ( In comparison, the US uses only about 20% of its land for agriculture. More than 400,000 people work on farms, with around four million in the bigger agri-food sector, Bloomberg says.

So, in a way, the dairy and the larger agricultural sector have to get it right on issues such as wastewater, while consumers have to think more about how they use their water, and the water companies have to start getting things right on how they manage this very precious resource.

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