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Great-grandmother hailed water saving champion

Tuesday 10th September 2019 12:00

Shirley Cato standing next to her water butt with a Thames Water employee

A great-grandmother from Broxbourne, who uses only a sixth of the water of the average Londoner, has been hailed a water saving champion by Thames Water.

Shirley Cato, 84, gets by on just 24 litres of water a day after developing clever ideas to limit her use of the precious resource around her house and garden – compared to the average of 143 litres.

Shirley says her awareness of the need to use water wisely to help protect the environment was heightened when she lived in Australia with her husband and two children in the 1960s, and ever since she’s always tried her hardest to not waste a drop.

She said: “We hear so much about climate change and how there will be less water available in the future so I’m really careful with what I use with my grandchildren and great grandchildren in mind.

“It doesn’t rain as much as it used to, especially where I live in the Lee Valley, and even after its rained, you only have to dig down an inch into the soil in the garden to see it’s bone dry. I don’t use less because I want to save money, it’s about protecting the environment.”

Shirley’s top water saving tips include:

  • Keeping a bowl in her bathroom basin to catch the water she uses for washing her face and hands, which she then uses to flush the toilet.
  • Having two bowls in her kitchen sink for washing up. When she only has a few items to wash she uses a smaller bowl which needs less water to fill it.
  • Saving water from her regular baths and scooping it out with a bucket to flush the toilet.
  • Only using the washing machine when she has a full load of laundry.
  • Using a glass of water to rinse her mouth when brushing her teeth instead of running the tap.
  • Keeping a jug of tap water in the fridge so it’s always cold when she wants a drink. This means she doesn’t have to run the tap for a while to get cold water through.
  • Shirley has two water butts in her garden and three bins to capture rainwater. In total she can store more than 700 litres this way to use for watering her plants.

Thames Water first met Shirley during one of its smarter home visits, which are designed to offer tips to customers to help them save money off their water and energy bills. The impressed team, however, found there was nothing extra they could do to help.

Andrew Tucker, water efficiency manager at Thames Water, who presented Shirley with a personalised watering can at her home last week, said: “It was a privilege to meet Shirley, who I think is the most water efficient Thames Water customer we’ve ever encountered.

“She’s a perfect example to us all of how we can keep ourselves and our homes clean, stay hydrated and maintain a beautiful garden without using too much water.

“We visit around 70,000 homes in our patch each year to offer them water saving advice but there wasn’t a single thing we could tell Shirley that she wasn’t already doing. The water we all use comes from the environment so the less we take from it the more is left to keep rivers and streams at healthy levels to support the wildlife and plants that rely on them.”

An estimated extra 2.1 million people are expected to move into the Thames Water region over the next 25 years and its predicted that this, combined with climate change, will result in a shortfall of 350 million litres of water a day between the amount available and the amount needed by 2045 if no action is taken.

By 2100, this is predicted to increase to 650 million litres a day. Thames Water is tackling this issue by fixing more leaks than ever on its pipe network, installing water meters for its customers and planning ahead for the provision of water for the next 85 years.

It’s current plan, which is being considered by the government, includes a proposal for a new reservoir in Oxfordshire along with the possible transfer of water from other parts of the country where it is more abundant.