Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive, Northumbrian Water
Looking for top water saving tips for working from home/self isolating?
- The average water used per person per day is 143 litres in England and Wales, 150 litres in Scotland and 145 litres in Northern Ireland.
- In 2010 the UN recognised the human right to water and sanitation, meaning everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable and affordable water.
- As well as the water that comes out of our taps and toilets, there is hidden water in the products we buy. One cotton t-shirt has about 49 baths full of water embedded in its production.
- The Antarctic ice sheet holds about 90 percent of the fresh water that exists on the Earth’s surface.
Why Save Water?
Saving water saves money. Installing simple devices such as water-efficient taps and showers will save both water and energy by minimising the use of heated water. About 20% of a typical gas heated home’s heating bill is from the water for showers, baths and the hot water tap. Such large financial savings can be particularly vital for households facing water and energy poverty.
Our use of water and energy are closely linked. Operational emissions from the water industry account for nearly 1% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. This is because water treatment is energy and chemical intensive and transporting water around the country requires a great deal of pumping. Reducing your water use will therefore have an impact on your carbon footprint.
Using water efficiently means that we can minimise the amount of additional water resources being taken out of our rivers and aquifers, especially as demands are rising. This protects our water resources and the wildlife that live in and use them too.
Securing Water Supplies
As water resources become more scarce building new infrastructure to meet growing demand becomes increasingly expensive. If we save water instead, we can offset the need for new infrastructure and reduce pressure on existing ones. Additionally, efficient water use makes our supply more resilient against impacts from climate change, such as droughts.
How to Save Water
In the Bathroom
Taps and Leaks
Brushing your teeth
- Remember to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth – a running tap wastes approximately 6 litres per minute.
Leak detection and repair
Leaky loos are one of the most common causes of unexpected high water use for consumers in the UK. When a toilet is leaking, water dribbles away down the back of the pan, which means a leaky loo often goes unnoticed. A leaking toilet most commonly refers to clean water running from the cistern into the pan.
- To detect a slow leak add a few drops of food colouring to your toilet cistern
- Don’t flush it for around an hour
- If the food colouring is present after an hour, you have a leak
- It’s easy to fix though! First contact your water company who may well fix it for free. Or you could find a recommended plumber to call or if you fancy a bit of DIY take the parts to the hardware store and ask the staff to help replace them
- Remember to check again for a leak once fixed.
Showers and Baths
A short shower with an efficient showerhead uses less water than a bath, which is usually around 80 litres. But beware since many power showers may actually use more than a bath. Baths and showers are accountable for the highest usage of water consumption in the home, at around 34%.
- The average showerhead uses 12 litres of water per minute, with power showers using around 15 litres. Given that the average shower taken is around 10 minutes long, that’s up to 150 litres of water every time you shower!
- Aerated showerheads reduce the flow but don’t compromise on pressure. They maintain the pressure by mixing in air with water to produce a steady, even spray.
- Low flow shower heads reduce the amount of water used to around 6 litres per minute, whilst still giving you the feel of a normal shower.
- To help keep track of time try using a shower timer set to four minutes.
- It is estimated that Britain ‘showers away’ more than 2,000,000,000 litres of water each day.
- If every home in the UK took one minute off their shower every day it would save £215 million on our collective energy bills every year.
- By running your bath just an inch shorter than usual, you can save on average 5 litres of water.
- You can minimise your water use by reusing your bathwater to water your houseplants or garden.
About 30% of total water used in a home is used to flush the toilet. Remember, this water is the same high quality water that’s in our taps.
Update to a water efficient toilet
- Dual flush toilets have a split flush button which gives the user the choice of how much water to use.
- Dual flush toilets typically use 4-6 litres of water opposed to the old style flush systems which use a massive 13 litres per flush.
Cistern Displacement Device (CDD)
- A CDD is placed in the cistern to displace around 1 litre of water every time you flush. They are super easy to install.
- Installing a CDD can achieve savings of up to 5000 litres per year.
- They are available for FREE from most water companies.
- Try to avoid flushing away cotton wool balls or make up tissues, simply throwing them in a bin will cut down on the amount of water wasted with every flush and obviously protect our sewers.
- Remember the 3 P rule: only poo, pee and paper down the toilet.
In the Kitchen
A dishwasher on an eco setting can be more efficient than washing dishes by hand, if the dishwasher is totally full. However, recent research has found that only half of people say they use the eco setting.
- Try to buy a dishwasher with a capacity suitable for your household size, so that it’s always full when you use it.
- Experiment with the settings on your dishwasher, many modern machines offer ‘Eco’ or ‘Economy’ setting.
- Avoid pre-rinsing dishes, detergents are highly effective, so all you need to do is simply scrape and place. Easy.
- Try adding a washing up bowl or plug into your sink to catch excess. This can reduce water wastage by 50%.
- Adding a tap aerator can help to reduce the flow, similar to the shower.
- When buying a washing machine, check the label or specifications for water use, the best models will typically use less than 7.5 litres per kg.
- Read the manual to find out which cycles are the most water-efficient.
- Surveys show that a typical load of washing is usually much less than the maximum capacity of the model, so stuff in a few extra shirts to make the most of your loads!
Drink Enough Water
- Put a large bottle of tap water in the fridge to ensure you can have chilled water all the time.
- Plants love to have a drink of any leftover water in glasses.
- Try to fill the kettle with only what is needed, this will save water and energy.
- Using the lid on saucepans reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation. It also helps your lovely veg cook quicker.
In the Garden
- Stop watering your lawn. It’s ok to let your grass go brown during dry spells – it will bounce back as soon as it rains again.
- Hoses and sprinklers typically use about 1000 litres of water an hour, this is more than 12 baths.
- If you have to use a sprinkler, try to use it in the early morning/ late afternoon, this is when evaporation rates are lowest.
- Pressure washers should be used sparingly or not at all. Look out for water-efficient models that are available.
- Attaching a trigger nozzle on your hosepipe will halve the amount of water used and help direct the flow to the root of your plants.
- Watering cans can significantly reduce the amount of water used (compared to sprinklers) whilst getting the desired amount to your plants. Hoses and sprinklers typically use about 1000 litres of water an hour, this is more than 12 baths and more than three average UK families use in a day.
- Water butts are a brilliant method to catch large amount of rainwater that falls each year – it’s free water.
- Lots of people use bathwater on their gardens, this is a brilliant idea. Please remember this is dirty water and should be used immediately, and never on fruit/ veg or near children.
- Use mulch and bark in your garden, it will help to reduce evaporation by up to 75%.
- Think about mixing some drought-resistant bedding and perennial plants to your garden to add a bit of diversity and resilience in the summer.
- Check the weather before you water. Many plants can go at least a day without watering, and if you know rain is forecast for tomorrow then it’s ok to give it a miss today. The RHS have some great watering advice here.
Food's Carbon Footprint
There is lots of scientific evidence that shows that eating a high meat diet will significantly increase your carbon and water footprint.
A quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from food. 58% of this comes from animal products. The International Panel on Climate Change says that we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter – but also eat more locally-sourced seasonal food and throw less of it away.
Food's Water Footprint
- The OECD reports that around 70% of freshwater withdrawal is used by agriculture in the world and that the livestock sector is currently using about 20% of freshwater for feed production.
- The Water Footprint Network’s global average figures state that 15,415 litres of water is required to produce 1 kg of beef and 5988 litres to produce 1 kg of pork. This might be lower if your meat is from the UK.
- 287 litres of water are required to grow 1 kg of potatoes or 1608 litres of water per 1 kg of bread from wheat.
- For every litre of milk produced, a cow needs to drink at least 3 litres of water. For some cows, the water requirement corresponds to 150 litres of water per day.
- There is a great deal of water used in the production of clothes.
- Although this water is rarely from UK sources, the clothes are often made in countries with already scarce water resources.
- Growing the cotton and dyeing the materials for one pair of jeans and one t-shirt can use up to 20,000 litres of water. It would take you over 13 years to drink this amount!
- Buying clothes second hand is a great way of ensuring clothes are given a second life and new resources are not being depleted.
Water Efficiency at Work
There are many benefits to reducing water consumption in the workplace, it can help with more than just cost. It can help your business to comply with current and future environmental legislation, reduce its carbon footprint, improve your company’s environmental performance and generate positive PR.
Water fittings in commercial multi-occupancy buildings often experience more frequent use than in dwellings, which means that payback times following investment can be excellent.
Educate your employees on the importance and practices of water efficiency. Try and set water usage targets and encourage widespread involvement to achieve this.
- urinal controls or waterless urinals
- efficient flush toilets
- automatic or sensor taps
Make sure you know where your supply pipes run and where the shut off valves are.
Check your meters at night or when no water is being used to monitor leakage.
Make sure your pipes are protected against cold weather as leakage can increase after a burst pipe due to frost.
Don’t forget your office kitchens either. Installing automatic taps or spray taps can help make a big difference to consumption levels. Check whether your appliances have an eco setting, and use them if they do.
Water Supplier and Water Recycling
Contact your water retail company for more details and ask them what they offer.
Research water recycling schemes. They are often more viable in business settings than domestic settings. Determine where your wasted water is going and if or how you can recycle it in other areas of your business.
Many local water companies have education centres or teams that conduct water-saving assemblies for schools – to educate and enthuse children and young people on the water cycle and the need for water efficiency. Some local water companies and water retail suppliers to schools will also run a water audit that identifies where and how much water can be saved. These programmes are often free or heavily subsidised, and their impact can be substantial. A Waterwise study found that up to 3.13m3 of water per day can be saved on average per school.