Firefighters use sewage water to tackle blazes for first time as droughts cause ‘challenging’ water supplies
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Mid and West WalesFire and Rescue Service said it is trialling the use of wastewater insead of drinking water and other sources as water supplies are becoming “less reliable”. The service added that they have been using ultra-violet (UV) to clean the wastewater before using it in their hoses to tackle blazes.
Last year Wales experienced the country’s driest spring and summer for more than 150 years, and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) moved all parts of the country to drought status by September 2022. As a result, a hosepipe ban was in place in Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire between August and October.
Welsh Water quashed fears that there would be more hosepipe bans this year after chief executive Peter Perry said “our water resource levels are strong” and “we do not expect to have any hosepipe bans in our area over the summer.”
But the water company has now said that the prospect of water shortages in the future means services should be adapting.
Luke Jenkins, a crew manager in Milford Haven told BBC News, that last year “taught us” that “water supplies are becoming less reliable” and it was “difficult” with the drought last year. He added: "You always have in the back of your mind that you have an established network of hydrants. But when that network becomes unreliable it just adds to everything."
The fire and rescue service are working with Welsh Water and NRW to treat the water using the UV technology.
The initiative means 100-litre fire engines can fill up and respond to incidents quickly - but it will be tightly regulated by NRW and only used in emergency circumstances.
A spokesperson for Welsh Water said: "By substituting this volume of water which otherwise would have been taken from the potable water supply it will help in the preservation of our supplies for customers especially in the face of increasing climate change impact on our natural resources.”
Mid and West Wales Fire’s deputy chief fire officer, Iwan Cray, said there was “ a lot of interest” from the southern parts of the UK to extend this initiative as in those regions especially “there’s short supply of water”.
A hosepipe ban across Cornwall and a small part of north Devon has been in force since 23 August 2022 and is set to be lifted on 25 September, South West Water announced. However, most of Devon will continue to have a hosepipe ban.