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The Ice Bucket Challenge - water wastage and hypocrisy

There is a craze sweeping the world at the moment, filling newspapers and ‘going viral’ on the internet.

For anyone who has been living in a cave for the past two months I am talking about the ‘ice bucket challenge’ - the latest thing to be seen doing.

A simple theory, it involves filling a bucket with water and tipping it over your head, preferably with a camera pointed in your direction.

The ‘challenge’, I am led to believe, helps raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease - the paralysing sensation of getting drenched in ice-cold water apparently gives an insight into what sufferers experience.

I get the theory, however I am starting to grow tired of the endless watery Facebook updates and procession of publicity-hungry ‘celebrities’ who, lets face it, would tip a bucket of camel dung over their heads if it scored them a picture in a national newspaper.

I can imagine the calls flying from publicists to clients - “I think it’s time you were seen doing the ice bucket challenge, I’ll get the press release typed up”.

I give my 100 per cent support to any organisation which raises money for and awareness of good causes - even if it is not one which resonates with me.

Motor Neurone Disease is a terrible condition which of course should be highlighted, it is a cause deserving of every penny raised to help sufferers.

But what started off as a well-intentioned idea is turning into an annoyance and, if nobody has noticed, a big waste of water.

Some big names have already hinted at their detachment from the challenge.

Former Baywatch star and anti-vivisectionist Pamela Anderson refused to take part due to the nature of the animal experiments involved in research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

American president Barack Obama has also decided to maintain a dignified dry stance, though he has not disclosed his reasons for snubbing the bucket.

It could be that he prefers to give money to the charity of his choice in a private manner or maybe he thinks it is simply publicity seeking, if so I am fully in his camp.

Cast your mind back to summers gone by and warnings which emerge around the same time as the first daffodils poke through the ground.

“Use water wisely”

“Don’t spend more than two minutes in the shower”

“Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth”

“Don’t throw the water away after boiling an egg - use it to water the garden”

We are told how many millions of gallons are wasted flushing the loo and warned we will all be queueing at standpipes if we take an extra bath.

However the very same people who wave their fists at the first hint of warm weather now seem reluctant to criticise the water-sloshing frenzy gripping the planet.

On its website, Friends of the Earth claims to be “working to protect fresh water through our network of local activists, and regional and national advocacy work”.

It states: “Fresh water is one of our most precious resources. 

“Yet we’re taking it for granted and using too much.”

Its water policy includes “Governments measuring water use and setting targets to reduce it”, “Strong EU rules obliging large companies to measure and manage the amount of resources they use, including water” and “more low-impact consumption”.

It even advocates “low water diets” and “reduced meat consumption” to help save the planet.

So what did they have to say when I called them hours after racing car driver Lewis Hamilton was pictured having two wheelie bins of water dumped over him.

A press spokesman said: “We’ve had a call about this already and its not something we’re concerned about.”

Oh really? - I’ll get that steak back on the grill then if you’ve changed your minds.

In a Government report in 2008 the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hilary Benn said: “Pressures on our water resources are set to increase. 

“The south east and east of England in particular face increasing demand on a finite water supply.

“We must find ways of using water much more efficiently and sustainably if we are to meet these challenges whilst continuing to enjoy high standards of water quality and a constant supply. 

“Water efficiency saves not only water but also the energy needed to pump, treat, and often heat it.”

When I asked about the water wasted doing the challenge The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) said today: “It’s not something we’ve got a position on, it’s a bit of fun for a good cause.”

Is this hypocrisy or are people fearful of slipping on an ice cube into the wrong side of political correctness? I think the latter.

I spoke to Jacob Tompkins at Waterwise, a body which aims to promote water efficiency, and to be fair he gave me a reasoned explanation as to why he wasn’t up in arms over the challenge.

He said: “There is a difference between water usage and water wastage, and as this is engaging people in charitable donations and looks like a bit of fun, it is not really a waste.

“We use around 150 litres of water per person per day, so you could offset a bucket of water by knocking a minute or two off your shower.

“We are not the water police.”

I’m not sure it is the waste of water which bothers me or the sudden emergence of double standards.

It also doesn’t help  that the bandwagon is steadily growing laden with the likes of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga posing under a bucket, all in the name of charity of course.

I have no intention of getting wet and sharing it with the world on Facebook, though I do and and will continue donating regularly to charity.

And to all the militant water watchers playing it safe for fear of offending the PC brigade - you just try and tell me I can’t hold the flush for more than two seconds next time we get a dry spell.