The importance of water saving

Posted: 17 May 2024

Dan Clark - Water Resources and Environment Manager

The average person uses 142 litres of water a day. Whether that is in the kitchen making a cup of tea, or in the bathroom having a shower, every drop counts.

This week is Water Saving Week, an opportunity to reflect on the water we use, understand how water is sourced and make small changes that can help save water at home and at work, to preserve this precious resource for future generations.  

To highlight the importance of why we need to think about the water we use, we sat down with our Water Resources and Environment Manager, Dan Clark.

Tell us about your role with Cambridge Water?

As Water Resources and Environment Manager, I’m responsible for ensuring we have enough water for the future, whilst ensuring the environment is protected where we take water. This involves long-term planning on how we will use our existing water sources, developing new water sources, and our strategy for managing customer demands and leakage for at least the next 25 years. 

These plans can be complex, allowing for things like climate change and reducing abstractions in some areas to enhance the environment. It is also important that we understand growth in the number of customers we supply and how they will use water.

What got you interested in taking up a role in the water industry?

I have always had an interest in the environment and joining Cambridge Water allowed me to work in roles that considered carbon reduction, sustainability and the environment. I ended up in water resources, which I am passionate about. Water is fundamental to everything; it is wonderful and precious, and how we use it must be balanced for our needs and the environment.

What water resources do we have in our region?

In the Cambridge region, our water is sourced from boreholes sunk into the chalk aquifer accounting for an average of 86 million litres a day of water resources, and up to 107 million litres on a really hot day. This water is naturally very pure, and we treat it mainly to remove nitrate and to make it safe to drink.

Mill River

What are we doing as an organisation to sustain our water resources?

As a society, we use a lot more water than we did 50 years ago, and this could cause a strain on our water resources for future generations.

We encourage and educate our customers to use water carefully and not waste a drop.  To support this, we install meters, provide water efficiency advice and offer free water-saving devices for the home. 


On our part, we are driving down leakage every year, aiming for a 50% reduction by 2040.  We are also investing in new sources of water, including a large regional reservoir in our region and a transfer from our neighbours, Anglian Water.  These will allow us to leave more water in the environment where it is needed.

Why is saving water important?

Only 0.3% of water on earth is freshwater that we can readily use, and all of the water we consume must be taken from the natural environment. This can put pressure on habitats and ecology. 

The water from your tap is also transported and treated to a high standard to be safe to drink, so it makes sense not to waste it, and to use it as efficiently as possible. It is worth remembering how fortunate we are to have high-quality water available on tap all the time as this is not the case in many other parts of the world.

Why do water companies request hosepipe bans in the summer?

As part of our plans for the future around water supply needs, we monitor droughts and extreme dry weather events. This kind of weather can restrict the available water we have to supply customers without harming the environment, as well as causing customer water use to increase, particularly for outside discretionary use.

We have a drought plan that is triggered when we may need to impose a temporary use ban. This restricts the use of a hosepipe for certain activities as a hosepipe can use up to 1,000 litres an hour!

Can for the Cam - our 2023 summer water-saving campaignCan for the Cam - our 2023 summer campaign for water saving where customers used 940,000 fewer litres of water per day compared to summer rates.

Where customers tend to use a hosepipe, like washing the car or watering their plants, we would encourage the use of a watering can, which uses a fifth of the water a hose pipe would use in an hour. 

What are we doing to help preserve the region’s chalk streams?

We are gradually reducing the amount of water we take from the chalk aquifer to leave more for the chalk streams, and when river flows are low, we stop taking water from sensitive locations to provide support to flows.

In the long term, we are investing in new water sources that do not rely on the chalk aquifer, which will allow the chalk streams in our area to return to more natural flows. We are also supporting river restoration projects that enhance the habitat and protect the ecology of chalk streams, and we have proposed a £12 million programme over five years from 2025, which will increase the breadth and number of restoration measures that we can support.


To learn more about the small changes you can make at home to save water, click here.

For more information on Water Saving Week, visit the Waterwise website