There is no doubt that most of us take water for granted. Particularly in the UK, where we have wet winters and wet summers too. From showering to washing dishes and even watering the garden, we use and rarely give its constant availability a second thought. However, water is not a limitless source and the home is one place where we waste a lot of it. Thus, understanding how to reduce water waste at home can help us to conserve this precious resource.
Of course, many of us see the world and how it is covered in water. How can we run out of water or even need to save it you might ask?
The truth is, 97.5% of water is found in seas and oceans. Therefore, it cannot be consumed by humans. What’s more, the majority of the remaining 2.5% is locked in ice caps.
Therefore, very little water is left for us to consume. So, when you consider that we need water to live, we should take care of it in every possible way. It is not plentiful. It is not ever-lasting. Like any of our planet's precious resources, doing our bit to conserve water helps reduce unnecessary wastage3.
We have a habit of leaving our taps running. Whether it is when we brush our teeth or wash food, it's all too easy to leave taps on and water running down the sink. For every minute that the tap is running, it uses as much as 12 liters of water.
When you brush your teeth turn the tap off and when you wash fruit or vegetables, fill a bowl up. You can then use the water that is left over when watering your lawn.
Traditionally, washing dishes the old-fashioned way was a fairly economical way of doing things. A full sink of water would often be sufficient enough to do the job. However, many of us now have dishwashers and that provides us with the chance to save water5.
Today, many dishwashers are now more economical than washing dishes with a sink full of water. The water usage of modern dishwashers is very low and some use just a few liters of water to clean a number of meals worth of dishes. What’s more, they even come with eco settings that we can use.
To save water, you should purchase a dishwasher that fits the needs of your household4. Further, simply making sure your dishwasher is full when you use it reduces the number of loads and helps to save water.
Many people tend to pre-rinse their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. This will see them not only using unnecessary water but also potentially leaving the tap running too.
You can also put a washing-up bowl in your sink and couple it with a long last zero-waste dish soap bar. This can catch any excess water and can reduce waste water by as much as 50% and the suds will last longer too when washing dishes by hand. If you do have to use your tap, then a tap aerator can help to reduce the flow of water. Should you have two sinks fill one with rinse water rather than using a running tap.
However, it is common for most of us to let the faucet run cold when we want a drink. This wastes a considerable amount of water - as much as ten liters a day. Therefore, fill a bottle and place it in the fridge. This will keep your water cold and save on bottled water waste.
Showering has been seen as the best way to save water when compared to using the bath. However, for every minute you spend in the shower, you can use as much as five to ten gallons of water. As relaxing as it is to stay there, set a timer and go for shorter showers. Many power showers now use more water than a bath so now is the time to be shower-savvy.
We can also change the showerhead to one of the many aerated low-flow showerheads available. Water-saving shower heads reduce the flow of water but not the pressure and can reduce your consumption to around 2 gallons of water a minute. Using a mixture of air with water, the flow of water is steady.
We have to wash our clothes, that is something that we cannot avoid. However, how we do so is pivotal to the way in which we save water.
It all begins with choosing eco-friendly clothes washers. Aim for one that uses less than 7.5 liters per kg. Most modern washing machines will come with a water-efficient setting too. Understand the specific settings and start saving water simply by using them. Most of us won’t notice any difference in how clean our clothes are and we can save water at the same time. Along with this, don’t wash just a few items a day.
The average family has a lot of washing, so let it build up and do full loads. What’s more, surveys have found that most people under load their washing machines. So add a few extra items in and couple your water saving with refillable zero waste laundry detergent to help reduce plastic waste too.
Furthermore, reducing your use of warm water washes to when essential will help you save electricity at home too.
Toilets need water in order to remove waste efficiently. Despite this, in the UK, we flush our toilets around 5,000 times a year. Old fashioned toilets use around 13 liters of water with each flush. This means that we could be using around 178 liters of water a day. So, dual flush toilets can save a lot of water as they can use as little as 4 liters of water per flush.
Water butts are amazing at collecting vast amounts of water2. If you use one then you could save as much as 5,000 liters each year. You can use this to water your garden instead of your hosepipe. What’s more, rainwater is better for plants than water from the tap. If you have an irrigation system on a timer, manually switch it off when it has rained and reduce it to run once a day for only the time needed.
During the summer months, our gardens and plants need water. So, instead of opting to water the garden in the middle of the day, do it at the start of the day or the end of the day when it is cooler.
When you do so in the searing heat, the water will evaporate quickly. So too will a light sprinkling which just wastes more water. This means that your plants will look as though they need more water. As a result, you are more likely to go out and water them again, using even more water.
Our homes are packed full of pipework that brings water in and takes water out of our homes. With this much pipework, there is a risk of leaks. Often, slow leaks can go hidden but by the time you realize it, a load of water would have already been wasted.
So, carry out regular checks on pipework around sinks and toilets. Check the dishwasher and washing machine hoses too. A simple tip is to add a little food coloring into your toilet tank, and if a little later there's the color in your bowl then you have a little leak to fix.
What’s more, it can help to know where the stop valve is. If you ever have a leak, you need to know how to stop it immediately.
Sometimes all we need is an incentive to stop wasting water. There is no bigger incentive than money and a water meter will show you exactly what you are using. Therefore, when you leave a tap running or you throw the water away, you are literally wasting money. This will enable you to become more mindful and considerate with your water supply and usage.
Household bills are creeping up in price. Despite this, when you can control what you waste, you can control what you spend. If we save water, we can save money. It is as simple as that.
If we use water more efficiently, we can ease the impact on the environment. It means that we are not taking water from rivers or aquifers which is a concern given that demand is on the increase. Along with this, we can also protect the wildlife that relies on the same water we use.
Water and energy have a very close link. The water industry contributes to 1% of the total carbon emissions in the UK as a result of operational needs. The more water we use and waste, the more treatment is required. Along with this, transporting water is energy-intensive too6. Therefore, reducing waste can help significantly ease the impact of climate change.
In reality, saving water takes no time at all. All we need to do is take a proactive approach in the way that we use it. If we turn a tap on to brush our teeth, then turn it off. Instead of swilling dishes, pop them straight into the dishwasher. These are simple changes that make a difference.
Much of the water we waste is down to habit and taking it for granted. Therefore, if we break the habit and think about what we are doing, we can help to save water.
|Saylor, A., Prokopy, L.S. & Amberg, S. What’s Wrong with the Tap? Examining Perceptions of Tap Water and Bottled Water at Purdue University. Environmental Management 48, 588–601 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-011-9692-6|
|Andrew Gilg, Stewart Barr, Behavioural attitudes towards water saving? Evidence from a study of environmental actions, Ecological Economics, Volume 57, Issue 3, 2006, Pages 400-414, ISSN 0921-8009, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.04.010|
|FRESHWATER RESOURCES COULD BECOME THE MOST CRITICAL FACTOR IN THE FUTURE OF THE EARTH. M. S. Zaman and Robert C. Sizemore. Department of Biological Sciences, Alcorn State University, Alcorn State, MS 39096, USA|
|Richter, C.P. (2011), Usage of dishwashers: observation of consumer habits in the domestic environment. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 35: 180-186. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2010.00973.x|
|Emmel, Joann, et al. "Technology and dishwashers: are users still wasting water? (Research)." Canadian Home Economics Journal, vol. 52, no. 2, Spring 2003, p. 14+. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.|
|Saving Water Saves Energy. James E. McMahon, Camilla Dunham Whitehead, Peter Biermayer Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA|
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.