You might not think much about the impact that you’re having when you’re running the tap. Especially nowadays, when we’re washing our hands more than ever before, having running water in your home has become a staple of life for a lot of people. (Incidentally, while we’re on the topic of water use, did you know that more people in the world have access to a mobile phone than have access to a toilet?)
Of course, the size of your household has a huge effect on the amount of water that you use. In 2020, a one-person household in the UK used, on average, 149 litres of water a day. For two-person households, that jumps to 276 litres. Three-person households use 367 litres, and it then rises reasonably steadily until you end up with a seven-person household, who use an average of 655 litres of water a day.
That’s an awful lot of water, and it can be difficult to see how it adds up. In fact, SES Water found that 1 in 4 people have no idea how much water they use, and a study by the Water Regulation Advisory Scheme found that people in the UK underestimated the amount of water that they, or their household, used by 55%. To help you picture how you get through all those litres of water - here are some averages: showering uses 10 litres a minute, flushing the toilet is 13 litres a flush and you’ll use 170 litres for every load of laundry.
Although we might be famous for our wet British weather, the Environmental Agency argues that we could be facing serious water shortages in the next 25 years, thanks to a rising population and climate change. They don’t think it’s too late - if everyone reduces their water usage by 33 litres a day, we can make sure that there’s still plenty of water to go around.
Now, don’t worry. We’re not about to tell you that you shouldn’t ever shower or wash your clothes - but there are lots of ways to cut your water consumption while staying smelling sweet.
The one you’ve probably heard over and over again - turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. This saves 6 litres of water a minute.
A cistern displacement device is a clever little thing that goes into your toilet cistern to reduce the amount of water used in every flush. Considering flushing the toilet can make up 23% of your daily water consumption, this could make a huge amount of difference.
Turning off the shower when you’re not specifically using the water. This might sound a bit weird to some of you, but a lot of people’s shower routines feature some standing around - for example, if you put conditioner in your hair and let it soak in. That’s a time when you could turn off the water for two minutes - saving 20 litres of water.
Obviously, spending less time in the shower will use less water, but you could also get a new low-flow shower head to control the amount of water that you use while showering. There are two different types: non-aerating, which squeeze less water through tiny holes, and aerating, which mix water and air.
If you notice a dripping tap - fix it. A dripping tap wastes 15 litres of water a day, literally going straight down the drain.
Use full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher. This will stop you from doing as many loads in between.
Who doesn’t love a nice cold glass of water? Fill a bottle or jug with water and put it in the fridge. That means you have cold water whenever you want it, without having to stand with the tap running and waiting for it to get really cold.
Get a watering can! Maybe this isn’t as technical at the cistern displacement device or the aerating shower head, but using a watering can instead of a hose to water your garden can have a massive impact on your water consumption - a hose can use up to 1000 litres of water an hour! You could also connect a water butt to your drainpipe, collecting rainwater that you can use to water your plants and wash your car.
You should also water your garden early in the morning and late afternoon to avoid evaporation, which means your lovely flowers can get all the good stuff from the water, without it getting wasted. You can also help reduce evaporation by putting heavy compost, mulch or bark around your plants.
When creating this list, we concentrated on things that hopefully wouldn’t make a huge impact on the way we live our lives - but with a little bit more thought, we can make a huge impact on our world.
Turning the tap off while you brush your teeth saves 6 litres a minute. If you brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day - this one simple action could save 24 litres of water a day. Considering the Environmental Agency wants everyone to cut out 33 litres a day, this already puts you well on your way to meeting that goal. If you then got out the shower a minute earlier than normal, you would save an extra 10 litres, and you’ve done it!
These tiny little changes to our days would mean that we’re ensuring clean water for everyone in the UK, now and in the future. And you’ll still smell as sweet as ever.