Greenhouse Pioneer: Jacob Tompkins, Waterwise

To mark World Water Day and Water Saving Week, we caught up with Jacob Tompkins, Managing Director of Waterwise. Jacob founded the organisation in 2005 and, through a mixture of campaigning and engaging with businesses, communities and government, has helped it grow into a leader in water efficiency.

Tell us about Waterwise – what’s your mission?

Waterwise champions water efficiency and we want water to be used wisely, everyday, everywhere by everyone.

What motivates you?Jacob

Humanity, the natural world, optimism, family, friends, colleagues, tea.

What are the challenges you face?

Most green NGOs are facing a funding crisis – everyone wants what we do, but few people want to pay for it. So our daily challenge is to keep Waterwise solvent which requires an entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of help from our friends and supporters. The actual water efficiency work we do is the easy bit in comparison.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

At the moment the thing I am most excited about is national Water Saving Week, happening this week 22nd-28th March.

This is a Waterwise initiative where we act as a catalyst for other people to take action. Lots of organisations and individuals are doing great things which is amazing. Seeing Waterwise facilitate this sort of thing and seeing the enthusiastic response makes me happy and revitalizes my optimism.

The other key thing that I really love at the moment is the response we are getting to our formal training and qualifications. These took us years to develop but we are now training hundreds of people in water efficiency advice and retrofit which is increasing the skills base in the sector.

Where do you want to take Waterwise next?

We launched our new strategy earlier this month. We will still focus on the same topics but working with a set of core supporters and we are getting a lot cleverer about packaging what we do into stuff that we can sell. This approach means we have cash for activities like Water Saving Week or the work we are doing to develop a national water efficiency strategy.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

A huge amount! By taking simple actions like knocking a minute off your shower you can tackle climate change, improve the quality of local streams and wetlands, reduce the impact of droughts and save money on your utility bills – and all before breakfast!

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would you do?

Personally I have very strong political views so I could write a lot here. But in my Waterwise capacity the answer would be to enhance the aquatic environment, to renaturalise rivers, slow them down and make water more integral to everyone’s daily lives especially in our city-scapes, there is a lot of evidence that this can improve people’s quality of life, their health and the economy.

Water Saving Week LogoWhat’s the cool project that has inspired you?

Josh Byrne turned a car park into an urban orchard in Perth, Australia, he’s a great bloke with inspirational ideas.

Can you recommend a game-changing book?

Wump World by Bill Peet.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

My children telling me about their day! Or Radio 3.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

My supervisor at Imperial told me that no matter what the topic of a seminar you can always ask ‘is scale an issue here?’

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?

Vandana Shiva.

Find out more about Water Saving Week and how you can get involved and join the conversation on Twitter – follow @Waterwise and #watersavingweek