I try and do my bit for the environment. My house is full of those curly lights that take an eternity to warm up like old television sets; I wash my yoghurt cartons and I do my best to make sure the recycling bin is full of wine bottles and empty cans; I have a compost heap at the bottom of my garden that has snow on its peak – but is it enough? The other day something transpired that made me realise that I am making a significant contribution to the environment whenever I go fishing.

It happened when I was out on the river as the call of nature beckoned, so I did what millions of anglers have done for centuries: I found a tree and had a wee behind it. Nothing unusual there you might think, but it occurred to me then that I had saved a cistern full of water. In this day and age of Greta Thunberg, melting glaciers and fervent eco-anxiety, I was struck by the enormity of what I’d done! I had saved a cistern full of water – drinking water at that.

It got me thinking… After a little research I have come up with the following points: most toilet cisterns currently installed in the UK supply a 7.5 litre or 9 litre single flush. Regulations in force since 2002 require the installation of a 6-litre single or 6/3 litre dual flush only – let’s say a typical flush of 8 litres. An angler fishing on average about forty times a year and answering the call of nature three times a session would save 960 litres of water. From the Environment Agency fishing licence sales, it would seem there are about 1.4 million anglers out there and a ‘back-of-an-envelope’ calculation shows that collectively we are saving nearly one and a half billion litres of water per year.

Water companies charge about £2.00 per 1000 litres of water which translates into a value of three million pounds and that’s not all. It’s my understanding that water is becoming a scarce resource; evidence of our disregard for the wet stuff is all around, and it is starting to bite. Beijing has sucked so much water out of the ground that the city is sinking by 11 centimetres a year. That’s positively glacial compared with parts of California’s Central Valley which are dropping by 5 centimetres per month! Currently, about 1% of the world’s population is dependent on desalinated water to meet daily needs, but the UN expects that 14% of the world’s population will encounter water scarcity by 2025.

So, us anglers are reducing the pressure on our important drinking water supplies; if that isn’t significant enough, consider this — urine contains some major plant nutrients: nitrogen, potassium and phosphate. At agricultural values, the 50 litres of urine that an individual contributes to the waterside environment each year multiplied by the number of anglers amounts to a whopping 1¾ million pounds worth of fertilizer that enables the vegetation to grow bigger and – here’s the important bit – capture significantly more carbon from the atmosphere. This has got to be a ‘good thing’. There’s a tip here: it’s generally considered that large, slow-growing trees store the most carbon for the longest period so choose your location wisely.

Speaking of carbon capture, what about the amount of carbon permanently stored in all the carbon-fibre rods that we own? Most anglers have three or four rods at least; some have many more keeping nasty carbon out of the atmosphere for a long time and this is a perfectly good argument for buying more rods for the sake of the planet. (We’d best not dwell on the temperatures in excess of 2200C required to make the stuff!)

And did you know this? Urine is a butterfly’s best source of vitamins. While butterflies sip nectar from flowers, they also sip any urine (not exclusively human!) that has collected on the flowers and leaves at every opportunity they get. So, not only are you increasing the volume of vegetation, you’re feeding all things bright and beautiful at the same time.

While writing this little article I researched some more interesting information about urine which I’d like to share with you:

US pilots had asparagus included in their survival kits as it was known that asparagus holds mercaptans which are powerful chemical attractants and, when the vegetable is eaten, these chemicals pass into the urine. The pilots were told to urinate in a pond or lake so that the chemicals would spread through the water and attract fish to the area, making them much easier to catch. (I’ve yet to see asparagus-flavoured boilies [or ground bait for that matter] – patent pending)

It’s not all good news though as demonstrated by the statistic from Canada where each year about 225 men fall overboard and drown as a consequence of standing up in a boat to urinate over the side! Alcohol was a contributory factor in around 80% of cases.

Because urea in urine breaks down into ammonia which has powerful cleaning properties it has been used for all manner of cleaning jobs, including whitening teeth in Ancient Rome!

Paruresis—also known as Shy Bladder Syndrome, Tinkle Terror or Pee Anxiety—is surprisingly common, with 7-10% of men reporting difficulty urinating in the presence of others.

Urine was used before the development of a chemical industry in the manufacture of gunpowder. The nitrogen from aged urine was concentrated over time and eventually crystalised to form crude saltpetre which was refined before use in making gunpowder.

Hippos are retromingent, which means they are able to urinate backwards: what a wonderful word!

And finally, in the future, urine could revolutionize the way we fuel our cars and source renewable energies. Scientists at Ohio University have developed technology to release hydrogen from ammonia compounds within urine. The gas can then be burned or used in fuel cells to power cars or electrical devices: happy days!

We should all feel proud to be anglers. If our environmental credentials are not quite up there with David Attenborough, we’re not far behind, (except for the mindless ones who leave litter behind)

The message is: get outside, go fishing and save the planet!


Andy Scholey January 2020

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