“We’re consuming more water than is actually falling from the skies, so we’re trying to encourage people to be more thoughtful about their water usage throughout the year, not just in the summer,” says the adventurer and TV presenter, who is supporting Affinity Water’s Save Our Streams campaign.
Fogle, a passionate advocate for the natural world and conservation, is keen to highlight that saving water could help protect our streams and rivers and the flora and fauna that live in them – and potentially save us money too.
Research by Affinity Water found 55% of Brits don’t understand the impact wasting water in the home can have on streams and rivers. Plus, many haven’t considered the fact wasting water may be pouring their own money down the drain, with 61% of adults unaware that a fifth (17%) of a typical energy bill goes on heating water, and 68% didn’t know that shortening shower time by two minutes could save as much as £400 on average annual energy bills.
“Running water from a tap can be quite abstract – it almost feels like you’re not having an impact, you turn on the tap and water always comes out of it,” says Fogle, 49. “It’s not that you willingly waste it, but you can’t really see how much you’re using. No-one really has any idea how much water it takes to fill a bath or put the dishwasher or washing machine on.
“What people need to start realising is the amount of water we actually consume, and see the effect that has – I think everyone saw it in summer, with depleted reservoirs and rivers running dry,” he adds.
Affinity Water says winter is a critical time for replenishing drinking water sources and keeping water flowing through chalk streams and rivers, but despite a few wet days in October, rainfall has been lower than average for the last six months.
The company points out that spending just two minutes less in the shower can save up to 30 litres of water a day, using a water butt to collect rainwater for the garden could save as much as 50 litres, and only running dishwashers and washing machines when they’re full and on eco mode could save up to 65 litres a day.
Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth could save 20 litres a day.
As part of the campaign, Fogle joined schoolchildren for an educational river dipping trip at England’s River Chess.
“Taking the classroom outside is something I’ve been really passionate about for years, it’s a campaign of mine to change the way we’re educating,” he says.
“There’s no better way than seeing things first-hand to feel more passionate about it. It’s how I got into my own form of environmentalism, when I spent a whole year living a sustainable life for Castaway, one of the very first reality TV shows all those years ago.
“I want to try and enthuse kids by taking them to a beautiful chalk stream and showing them the impact we can have by diverting water away from our natural environment like these streams, and the knock-on effect it has on the flora and fauna, everything that lives in those rivers and the importance of the biodiversity there.”
He says the message isn’t lost on his own kids, Ludo, 13, and Iona, 11.
“My children are probably tougher on sustainability than my wife and I – they’re the ones who tell us we should be more careful!” reveals Fogle, who’s been married to wife Marina since 2006.
“They’re leading the way with us when it comes to everything – turning lights off, being careful about water – but certainly as a family there are measures we’ve taken to try and be a little bit more sustainable.
“That doesn’t mean we’re perfect – I’m aware I have my own negative impact on the environment with the travel I do, so I’m always wary of not wanting to sound hypocritical by encouraging others,” he adds.
“But it’s great to be part of a campaign where we’re enthusing children and empowering and enabling them to make positive changes that won’t have a dramatic effect on their lifestyle.
“Children are the catalyst for the future, they’re the ones who are going to help save everything, so I think it’s about trying to enthuse them to encourage their parents to make a difference,” he stresses.
The adventurer, who’s currently appearing on Channel 5’s Lost Worlds with Ben Fogle, says he hasn’t got any more epic challenges planned yet – but hopes his next one will have something to do with water.
“Saving water, caring about water quality and all of those things are a big passion of mine and I’m hoping next year, which will be my 50th, is maybe the time to do a big waterborne challenge and use it as a way of celebrating our waterways,” says Fogle.
“There’s nothing in stone yet, but who knows, maybe some people will come up with some brilliant ideas.”