Most of us welcome hot weather and look forward to a sunny summer, even though we’re sometimes disappointed. While the heat is a great excuse to get the paddling pool out and have your favourite ice cream, very high temperatures and humidity can present a risk to health, especially to those of us who are more vulnerable. The warmer and longer days also puts increased pressure on local water production, due to the increase demand for water inside the house and out in the garden.
This summer has already seen a heatwave grip Europe with temperatures in France reaching a record 45.9°C at the end on June. It’s important to remember that high temperatures in the UK can affect you just as much as sunny spells abroad. We’ve also got to remember that while we might be tempted to turn on the taps and keep that cool water flowing, that water is really valuable and cannot afford to be misused.
“Why is heatwave a problem?” I hear you ask – “we all love the sun!” Well, there are several main risks posed by heatwaves. For humans, it’s a matter of potential dehydration, overheating and heatstroke. These are factors that we need to keep an eye on. For water usage, increased heat sees increased demand, which stresses the water network’s ability to produce water fast enough and accelerates the draw on total water storage in local reservoirs.
Whilst it’s unlikely that we will be experiencing temperatures quite as high as France, we do need to be aware of how to stay cool when it warms up this summer while being careful about our water usage. As much as we’d love to, we can’t magic more water out of thin air. Therefore, we need your help to keep demand steady and reduce the pressure on our facilities when it gets hot.
So, what can we do to stay cool, help to save water and help protect our local environment?
Let’s start with the forecast…
Check the forecast
It might seem like come Monday we’re hit with torrential rain and by the weekend, we’re rolling out the BBQs in some glorious sun. It’s true, we have very varied weather here in the UK but we’re lucky enough that we can plan for it.
It’s wise to keep an eye on what weather the next few days will bring in your area so that you can plan for it. Here’s some more information about the future weather in your area.
Keep your body cool
So, you’ve looked at the forecast and the heatwave has hit! Did you know your body has quick-cooling spots called ‘pulse points’? These are areas where your blood vessels are close to your skin’s surface and because they’re so close, you’ve guessed it, you can feel your pulse!
You’ve probably heard of running your wrists under cool water but there are other areas too. The inside of your elbows, knees, the tops of your feet and insides if your ankle are all critical areas to keep cool if you want to be. Your neck is one of the most influential areas on your temperature too – that’s why we wear scarfs in the winter! Listen to your body and if it’s hot, cool these areas down with a wet towel, rather than running water or a shower, to conserve water but still stay cool.
If you need a cool shower, try and keep it short. Showers normally make up around 25% of an average household’s water usage. Simple reductions in shower time can have a massive impact on overall usage. Having a shower for 4 minutes uses, on average, 40 litres of water – half that of having a bath! Save even more with a water efficiency showerhead – it will feel just as good but save even more water and save you money on your water bill.
Fancy a fun challenge? Try cutting down your shower time to 4 minutes using one of our shower timers whilst singing along to your favourite song. Check out this four-minute tunes playlist on Spotify – there’s something for everyone!
Drink plenty of water
We’re all vulnerable in hot temperatures to dehydration. The tricky bit is that thirst isn’t a helpful indicator of hydration. Did you know, when you’re thirty you could have already lost as much as 1 to 2 percent of your body’s water content? Keeping topped up is tricky, especially if you’re busy, but there are methods you can use to keep your water levels healthy.
Plain sight: bring a water bottle to work when you leave your house or place a note on your fridge to drink a glass of water.
Flavour is fun: want a change in taste? Add fruits such as lemon, lime or cucumber to your water to sweeten your drink. This adds nutrients with every sip while keeping you hydrated!
Did you know that your body is made up of 60% water? Foods also have a high-water content, some more than others. You can get loads of water from water dense foods such as berries, tomatoes, celery and cucumber – great options for a refreshing summer salad.
Cooling your water down in the fridge is a great way to keep your tap water refreshing. Alternatively, pop some ice cubes in your drink which will help lower its temperature. Both are better than leaving the tap run for ages to get some cool water.
Stay out of the sun
What’s the saying, “you are what you eat”? Well, you’re also as warm as you dress!
In heatwaves, dressing appropriately can keep the suns radiation off you and those at particular risk from the sun, out of harms way. If you’ve got to go out in the heat, keep to the shade, wear lightweight clothing and light colours which allow those pulse points you’ve just read about to stay cool.
Ever wondered why houses are painted white when you go abroad? Light colours reflect heat while dark ones absorb it, so remember to wear light coloured cloths made of thin material, like cotton. Headwear is essential, such as a cap or wide brimmed hat. If you find yourself exposed to direct sunlight, remember to cover your skin with protection such as sunscreens with a high sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 SPF, or wear a loose, long sleeved shirt. Sunglasses help prevent ultraviolet radiation (UV) from damaging your eyes too.
A simple way to keep cool is keeping to the shade. You may feel 10-15 degrees cooler in the shade, even though it’s the same as in pure sunlight. The difference is that your skin isn’t being ‘heated’ by direct UV rays, so your body feels more comfortable.
Check in – Who’s a priority?
Unfortunately, I’m not referring to holiday flight check-ins here. This is about checking in with those who may need help, or who can help you! Look out for neighbours, family or friends who may not be able to care for themselves when the heatwave hits. This includes those with babies to people with chronic conditions or those already on certain medications.
Know someone who is physically active every day? It doesn’t take much effort to check in with someone who might be out hiking or labouring – a simple call or message is all you need to make. At Thames Water, we aim for your taps to have water flowing out of them, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But if things ever go wrong, we want to support you – particularly in a heatwave.
If you know someone who would need priority help and services from us if water supplies ever go wrong, tell them about our priority services register which they can join by emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning: 0800 009 3652 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).
So, are you ready to beat the heat?
Well there you have it! Some top tips for beating the heat this summer. The warmer months are upon us and temperatures should continue to rise. This summer is predicted to be one of the hottest on record. By following some of these seasonal survival tips, you can keep cool and hydrated while being water conscious – a win-win.
A heatwave sounds scary, but taking these precautions means that it doesn’t have to be. Keep covered up and hydrated, use the shade as your friend and listen out for forecasts in your area. Enjoy the warmth and remember, it’s the perfect excuse for getting your favourite ice cream to cool you down too!