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Hosepipes, history and a sustainable future (Policy Paper No. 75)

Hosepipes, history and a sustainable future (Policy Paper No. 75)

Taylor, Vanessa ORCID: 0000-0003-3639-7460 and Trentmann, Frank (2008) Hosepipes, history and a sustainable future (Policy Paper No. 75). historyandpolicy.org.

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Abstract

[Executive summary] In the light of the 2006 drought and potentially permanent 'water stress', the government has been reviewing its policies on drought-time restrictions. Droughts have been a constant feature of modern life, irrespective of different systems of water-supply ownership, so the proposed reforms are right to emphasise the importance of making drought contingencies and increased water efficiency a normal part of consumers' future plans. However, there is a 'civilising contract' at the heart of the issue of water supply and drought, for ever-increasing water use has for a long time been a positive feature of civilised life. As a result the history of droughts in the UK reveals a mismatch between consumers' willingness to accept drought-time economies and their unwillingness to reduce consumption in the long term. There is a danger that distinctions between acute (and temporary) drought and chronic (permanent and accumulating) water stress may be obscured by a generalised reference to water scarcity. Greater clarity is needed about the implications for UK consumers, both of more frequent drought-related restrictions and of permanent water stress. Since consumers' routines and perceptions of entitlement have always played an active role in shaping how systems of supply operate and break down, it is time to revisit the 'civilising contract' which underpins their long-term expectations. Similarly, as the category of water 'waste' is expanding with the increased focus on drought and scarcity, it is important to recognise that what is 'waste' and what is 'rational' consumption have historically been the subject of heated controversy and conflict. It is therefore vital for the success of any reforms that consumers are actively involved in the discussion over what supply systems and demand-management strategies might look like in the future. Definitions of drought and scarcity, rational use, waste and consumer entitlement have always been, and must remain, fluid and open to political contestation.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Policy Paper No. 75. [2] History & Policy is a collaboration between the History Faculty of the University of Cambridge, the Centre for History in Public Health (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and the Centre for Contemporary British History (King's College, London). [3] The History & Policy website has been providing policy-relevant history since 2002. The site was set up by Cambridge historians Alastair Reid and Simon Szreter as a forum for historians to discuss the policy implications of their research and make it accessible to non-academic audiences. Between March 2006 and September 2009, History & Policy was funded by the Philanthropic Collaborative under a three-year pilot project to build on the growing popularity of the website and bridge the gap between historians and the policy world. This enabled the appointment of a full-time History & Policy external relations team, based in the Centre for Contemporary British History, at the Institute of Historical Research. From October 2009 to September 2011, History & Policy is being funded by Arcadia and The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to deliver a new programme of work that will broaden the links between historians and policymakers. [4] The History & Policy public affairs team is based at King's College London, along with colleagues from the Institute of Contemporary British History.
Uncontrolled Keywords: water stress, consumption, drought, sustainability, history
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:32
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/5789

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