For many people in the UK, this winter is going to raise enormous challenges and require difficult, miserable choices about priorities. There are no good answers here. There are no workarounds for not being able to afford to live, and it is appalling that anyone should be facing this, but here we are.
Hot water is one of those things most of us take for granted. My grandmother had things to say about the arrival of hot running water in the home, but most of us alive now have grown up with it being normal. Heating water costs money.
Hot water is better for hygiene than cold water, so if people cut back on hot water we can expect more illness and food poisoning. As is always the way of it, people with physical vulnerabilities will be hardest hit.
Soaking in hot water offers pain relief to many. The cost of not being able to have a long, hot shower or a decent soak in a bath will be high for some of us. Washing can also help a lot with mental health, while not feeling clean will undermine it.
Hot drinks do a lot to comfort people. To the point whereby heating water is strongly recommended in survival situations because it has such a massive impact on morale and your ability to keep going.
When you are cold already, or ill, or in pain then cold water just takes more out of you. Washing yourself or your stuff in cold water will add to your exhaustion and discomfort. Most of us are not equipped to heat water by other means.
As a society we have – I think – gone too far with the washing of bodies and clothes. There would be environmental benefits to cutting back on that a bit. However, this isn’t the way to do it. Forcing people not to be able to use resources in the way they need to is cruel. We should be scaling back thoughtfully and on our own terms. We should all be able to afford to be warm enough.