Swimming with the tides

Image: Marcis Berzins / Unsplash

One of the most popular topics with our Make Water Famous community is swimming. I like to think that’s because it’s the activity that brings us closest to this fabulous finite fluid that is fundamental to existence for all living organisms.

Whether it’s taking a dip in a public pool, braving a river or lake or taking to the sea, people say they experience heightened happiness and wellbeing through swimming, so the announcement of four new sites for wild swimming in England is to be welcomed. I’m curious about what’s driving the upswing in interest in swimming and was particularly delighted to hear from Chris Romer-Lee, an architect whose practice is working on improving access to water by supporting amazing lido projects all around the world.

“I love what you’re doing,” he said about Make Water Famous. And of course, we love what he’s doing through Future Lidos, a network of community-led projects and campaigns around the UK and Ireland, dedicated to reviving outdoor pool swimming.

He agreed that the resurgence of interest in swimming – both wild and tame – in England is largely a response to the pandemic, when people were constrained to their own neighbourhood for exercise, and had to make the most of the facilities there. Many were unhappy with what they found, so as well as new swim facilities emerging, there has also been a powerful push for clean-up of our rivers, lakes and seas.

Hero to zero

While it can help drive initiatives to improve environmental and public health, swimming can also fuel water shortages. A study, published in Nature Sustainability showed that the water consumption of the richest citizens of Cape Town – and their swimming pools - exacerbated the ‘day zero’ water crisis experienced by the city in 2018.

It was found that the richest people in the city used 50 times more water than the poorest, and the researchers said, “It’s time to agree about how society should share life’s most essential natural resource.”

In the UK, as people have sought to enjoy their water environment more, they’ve been shocked to find that the antiquated sewerage system is designed to push a combination of excess stormwater and sewage into watercourses, to prevent it backing up into people’s homes. Polluted rainwater running off highways and agricultural land adds to the toxic mix.

Innovation revelation

Scouring the water innovation landscape in recent weeks, I’ve discovered many ways this pollution can be reduced and prevented – from artificial intelligence that can detect potential sewer blockages before they happen – to smart rain-butts that empty ahead of a storm to capture water during heavy rainfall – to ‘spongy’ landscaping that stores stormwater closer to where it falls. We look forward to covering many of these amazing solutions on Make Water Famous in the coming months, so don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to stay in the know.

How we water consumers use this precious resource can make a huge difference too – taking shorter showers not only saves clean water, it reduces the volume of wastewater entering the system. And did you know holding back from using your washing machine during a storm could help prevent pollution of rivers and seas?

Wild world

It seems a small sacrifice to make to help protect not only this precious resource, but also water-dwelling wildlife and plant-life that have no home other than rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Flora, fauna, humans - we’re all part of this miraculous water-cycle that continually swishes around the Earth in rivers and clouds, seas and soil, sewers and swimming pools. By immersing ourselves in water to swim, not only do we reclaim that connection with our living earth, but in that moment, we can also commit to our role in creating a healthier water future for everyone and every being.

Check out our latest swim stories here https://www.makewaterfamous.com/sport-wellbeing