16th December 2015

Too little water needs solving, here in Britain


In this latest Geovation Challenge, we have turned our attention to water, and the problems of  ‘How can we better manage water in Britain, sustainably?’ 

Today we focus on the problem of too little SMALL_toolittlewater_590x330water

… More like too much water?

Whilst there is great attention to ‘too much water’ recently, with the sobering flooding experienced in the north west of England, in Cumbria and Carlisle, we also return your attention to the issues of ‘too little water’. Whilst hard to believe, in the wake of recent events, both problems of too much and too little water co-exist across the UK. Better understanding in the matters of where (the geographical problem), what and how these problems exist, gives us tools to help how we may solve them.

The global picture

Thinking globally first, did you know only 38% of UK’s total water use, including the ‘virtual water’ hidden in our products and services, derives from self-sufficient resources? The remaining 62% is essentially imported, often through our goods such as food, manufacturing and textiles.

The average UK resident consumes 150 litres per day, but indirectly our virtual water consumption per day totals 30 times this. A prime example to understand this virtual water footprint is the common but seemingly non-suspect cup of tea: where 32 litres of water are typically used to make it – involved in growing the tea leaves and sugar, and tending cattle for the milk – far more than the 0.2 litres of literal hot water we think is involved.

The local picture

In our Geovation Water Challenge ‘too little water’ problem persona, we highlight the grounded reality of this challenge within the UK. For example, a UK farmer often temperamentally experiences both too much water where their fields flood, and at other times not enough water sufficient for producing a large and healthy crop yield. Many farmers already recognise the need to better understand how to manage soil and water, which could help to more appropriately abstract water according to weather conditions – such as removing more in times of too much water, and retaining water in times of too little. Such understanding is not so simple however.

Currently, far better data is required – for example on the state of local rivers, so water stakeholders like farmers (not only water companies and authorities) can understand how much water is available and therefore be better agency to helping protect these water resources.

Read our farmer persona and full ‘Deep Dive’ to learn more about the ‘too little water’ problems we have identified and aim to help solve through the Geovation Water Challenge.

Can we innovate to help us manage too little water?

If this inspires you to think of an idea for the Geovation Challenge, find out more about what we are looking for and the other problem themes and enter your ideas on the Geovation Challenge online by 27 January 2016 (12 noon).

Ideas identified for their potential impact will be invited to a Geovation Weekend Camp from 4-6 March 2016, where you will be asked to work on transforming your idea into a prototype venture. You will also identify how to overcome problems in implementing your idea and learn to pitch your idea ‘pecha kucha’ style to the independent judging panel.  See the timetable. Those selected to be invited into a 12 month funded Geovation Programme will be announced at the end of this camp.

We are delighted to be collaborating with Environment Agency, DEFRA (whose release of thousands of open data sets coincides with the Geovation Challenge), Southern Water, and United Utilities on this Geovation Challenge.

Our challenges are open to UK-based organisations and/or UK residents aged 18 or over and we encourage entrepreneurs, developers, geographers, community groups, and innovators to enter