Firefighters resort to using sewage water after droughts

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service in action  (Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service in action (Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)

As droughts threaten their ability to respond to emergencies, firefighters will resort to using sewage water to put out fires.

After workers encountered "challenging" low water supplies in some places due to droughts last year, the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is testing the use of sewage water for the first time.

Crews in Mid and West Wales will utilise the water, which has been treated and cleansed with UV radiation as an alternative to drinking water and other sources which are strained by current procedures.

Water supplier Welsh Water declared a drought in every area of Wales by September 2022 after experiencing the driest spring and summer in more than 150 years. The provider stated that services should adjust as a result of the potential for future water shortages.

In Pembrokeshire and some areas of Carmarthenshire, hosepipe use was prohibited; however, reservoir and river levels had recovered by the beginning of 2023.

The typical modern fire engine can hold 1,800 litres (395.9 gallons) of water, and using a lot of water can occasionally can have a negative impact on smaller communities, such as low water pressure.

If droughts return over the next few years, according to Welsh Water's Mark Davies, more services and organisations need to consider how they use water resources.

"Wales is a country that gets plenty of rainwater. We need to make sure that we use that water as efficiently as we can," he said.

"We're looking ahead at the next 25 years to see how we can improve our water supplies."

Wales won’t be the first to deploy sewage water. In 2020, when fires hit drought-ravaged New South Wales, Australia, firefighters battled the massive blazes by resorting to using treated sewage.

If sewage water proves to be a success in Wales too, it might inspire more countries to recycle sewage water in this way to tackle the flames.