Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: Save water and give wildlife a helping hand
With forecasts suggesting that there is little rain on the horizon for a number of weeks, and recent record-breaking temperatures the prospect of a significant drought is upon us, writes Erin McDaid of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
We also appear to have all the evidence we need that our weather and climate have changed dramatically and worryingly. That change is likely to continue and even accelerate in the short to medium term with even higher temperatures predicted and more extremes of weather, including periods of heavier rainfall.
Unfortunately, when much of our rain falls in deluges rather than a steady trickle, much of it can go to waste. This is especially problematic in our towns and cities where pavements and other areas of hard-standing quickly channel the precious water into the drainage system and then all too often into storm drains and on to our rivers and streams.
As a result, there is little time for this precious liquid to soak into the ground to top up our natural aquifers or to top up the artificial reservoirs so vital to our water supply.
This result in a double whammy — with hot temperatures driving increased demand for water coinciding with lower than necessary supply. This increases the likelihood of shortages — with the prospect of hosepipe bans now definitely on the horizon.
When the weather is more clement it can be easy to ignore calls for us all to be more water-wise and follow advice such as taking showers instead of baths, taking shorter showers and collecting rainwater for use in the garden. However, when it is too hot to even consider stepping outside, and you regularly see pictures of half empty reservoirs on the TV, with half the summer still to come, we would all do well to think carefully before wasting such a scarce and valuable resource.
I personally swapped baths for showers long ago except for the occasional soak as a treat after a long day at the allotment. I have two water butts, which I use whenever I can to water my plants. I try to avoid leaving taps running and use my hosepipe as sparingly as I can.
This year I’ve made a conscious effort to move my much-loved plants into larger tubs and containers to reduce how often they need watering.
Having not had any water in the butts for weeks, it’s clearly time for me to expand my collection capacity with more or lager containers. I may also need to get used to moving tubs and pots into the shade during hot spells.
Indoors, I am considering a small dishwasher as there is a case, when used efficiently, that they save on both water and energy.
As well as using water more frugally, I need to do more to ensure birds and other wildlife have access to water year-round.
In addition to a small bird bath and a couple of ‘mini ponds’ above ground, during the hot spell I resorted to filling a large shallow tray with water during the fiercest heat — but that evaporated within the space of three days. I think the time has come to create a small pond in the more shaded part of the garden to give more creatures access and to help provide continuity of supply.
Providing access to water is the single most important step you can take to help wildlife in your garden. Whether via a simple bird bath or mini pond in a small garden or a larger wildlife pond with space for mammals such as foxes and hedgehogs to drink, it will make a real difference.
Where space allows, a larger pond will also provide room for bats and birds such as swifts and swallows to hunt insects over.
As well as directly helping species that might otherwise struggle to find water, your efforts are likely to be rewarded with increased opportunities to view wildlife at close quarters.
From frogs floating contentedly at the surface of a pond or young sparrows taking their first dip this will make it doubly worthwhile.
If you do help wildlife by creating a pond or adding a bird bath don’t forget to plot it in our new digital map to help us show how people are coming together to create a greener, wilder Nottinghamshire at nottinghamshirewildlife.org/map-your-action