Everyone’s got a ‘poo in the pool’ story; one where everyone clambers out of the water screaming like there’s a great white after them, while the lifeguard strides towards the deep end with a gigantic net. Stories like these are ensconced in the psyche of every human being that owns a Ducklings 10m certificate as firmly as stories of a worldwide flood are in ancient literature.
The two (faeces and flooding) are more firmly linked than you realise.
According to the Make Space for Water report by Leeds University, water companies are permitted to run foul waste from combined sewers (pre-war pipes that contain both rainwater and household effluent) directly into rivers and the sea after intense rainfall to avoid foul waste backing up in homes or hitting the streets through overflowing drains. Yep, you heard me right: everything you flush floating past you at your local beauty spot or joining you for a paddle at the seaside. Even reading about it is making me do a Ja-nice from Friends.
‘Oh. My. Goodness!’
So first up: don’t flush those tampons! How many times have we been told that? Bag them. Bin them. Same with baby wipes, condoms, ear buds, dental floss.
Right, with that out the way, let’s get on to more appealing ways of dealing with the problem.
The report says localised flooding (which gives rise to the need for emergency combined sewer discharges, i.e. poo in the water) wouldn’t be half so bad if stormwater could actually GO somewhere other than down the drain:
‘Just by having a garden you are making an important contribution to stormwater control in your neighbourhood.’
The most valuable thing you can do is to avoid increasing the impermeable area of your property footprint. Adding a bit of flagging here and there might seem trivial and a solution to all your garden maintenance problems – and I’m totally with you on the barbecues and lazy days dream after all the mowing and weeding I’ve done on bank holiday ‘rest’ days recently – but when everyone hard landscapes, the loss of urban greenspace (and permeable drainage) can be substantial.
In London it’s estimated that around 32km2 of front garden has been converted to hard standing for off street parking, equivalent to the combined area of the boroughs of Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham, and that several million tonnes of raw sewage are pumped into the Thames each year following heavy rainfall.
So next time you’re tempted to curse and spit about mowing the lawn, polish your halo instead and weather the storm. You’re a faeces fighter! The dude with the net. Making it safe to go back in the water.
Twitter – @emmajgreenwood
For more articles like this, download the Liberti app here