Water doesn’t (usually) seem in short supply here in the UK – but knowing how to save water at home is vital to being more eco friendly. Thanks to climate change, and the more extreme weather that it's causing, our water supply is becoming more and more unpredictable.
Water is also intrinsically linked to energy use – and therefore carbon emissions. According to Waterwise, emissions from the water industry account for nearly one per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions. This is because water treatment is energy intensive, while transporting water around the country requires a lot of pumping.
Added to that, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that 28 per cent of a household's heating bill is from heating the water for showers, baths and hot water – which equates to around £125 a year. So saving water at home isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocket.
As well as cutting your energy bills and carbon footprint, saving water can also save you money on your water bill (if you’re on a water meter), and reduce your impact on nature and the local environment. A pretty winning combination in our book.
How much water are we using?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average UK household uses 345 litres of water each day (that’s over 600 pints). If you think about 600 milk bottles, that suddenly seems like an awful lot.
And our water consumption isn’t just limited to the water coming from our taps. Water is used in many industrial processes to produce goods we use every day. For example, one cotton t-shirt has about 49 baths full of water embedded in its production.
19 simple water-saving tips
So how can we save water at home? We’ve got a whole host of ideas to get you conserving those litres.
1. Turn the tap off
Seemingly simple acts like leaving the tap running while you brush your teeth could be wasting up to 24 litres of water a day. So don’t do it.
And that also applies to washing your hands, washing your face, shaving – you get the idea. When you don’t need the water, the tap should be off.
2. Check for leaks and drips
A dripping tap can waste more than 5,300 litres of water a year. So make sure your taps are properly turned off and change washers promptly when taps start to drip.
Leaky loos are another common cause of water wastage. When a toilet is leaking, water dribbles away down the back of the pan, which means a leaky loo often goes unnoticed. To detect a slow leak follow these steps:
- Add a few drops of food colouring to your toilet cistern
- Don’t flush it for around an hour
- If the food colouring leaks into the toilet bowl, you have a problem
If you spot a leak, it’s worth contacting your water company, as they may fix it for free. Otherwise, it’s time to call the plumber – or if you’re feeling confident, take a trip to the DIY shop. Just remember to check again for the leak once you think it’s fixed.
3. Think about the flush
Toilet flushing can account for about a third of a household’s water use, with old style flush systems using a massive 13 litres per flush.
Enter the dual flush toilet, which is designed to use significantly less water overall as well as providing two flush options. Dual flush toilets typically use 4-6 litres of water – so it’s a substantial saving.
If you can’t invest in a new toilet, you can also buy a variety of water-saving devices that you simply pop in your current cistern. Or you could even make your own using a plastic bottle – just put an inch or two of sand or pebbles in the bottom of a one litre bottle, fill the rest of the bottle with water and put it in the cistern (safely away from the flush mechanism).
4. Use a dishwasher – the right way
A standard dishwasher uses around 9.5 litres of water per wash, while hand washing generally uses up to 60 litres. So using a dishwasher should save you a lot of water.
But it’s really important to use it the right way. For example, never pre-rinse your dishes. It’s just not necessary these days. And always wait till your dishwasher is full. We’ve got lots of tips for eco-friendly dishwasher use here.
5. Brush up your washing up technique
And on the subject of washing up, you might have a preferred method of washing up by hand, but we’re afraid to say it could be time for a rethink.
The way you wash up by hand can drastically alter how much water you use. For starters, use a bowl. And don’t rinse under a running tap. For the full low down on water-saving washing up, take a look at the tips here.
6. Leave the laundry (until it’s really necessary)
Nowadays, the average washing machine cycle uses about 50 litres of water per wash. That means if you can reduce or consolidate the number of washes you do per week, you could be saving 50 litres of water for every wash you cut out.
Washing machines also offer economy cycle options – such as ‘quick washes’ – which can cut down water use even further. Any detergent that performs well at low temperatures (30ºC) will help you get great washes on eco and quick wash settings
7. Only boil the water you need
You can save water and energy by only filling the kettle with as much water as you actually need. Simple, but worth it.
8. Think carefully about food
Farming – both of animals and crops – at a large scale is incredibly water-intensive. By cutting down on meat and dairy and eating seasonal vegetables you'll be helping to conserve water. Take a look at our tips for eating sustainably.
9. Use a steamer for your veg
Using a vegetable steamer instead of multiple pans is another great option to conserve water. Plus your veg will retain more natural goodness – winner.
10. Choose water efficient kitchen appliances
As we’ve already alluded to, kitchen appliances like dishwashers and washing machines are much more efficient than they used to be. If you’re serious about saving water and you’re due an upgrade, it’s worth researching which appliances are the most water efficient.
Washing machine and dishwasher energy labels also include information about their water usage. The tap icon in the bottom left corner will tell you how much water they use per year on average, so keep an eye out for it.
11. Don’t mop the floor with water
You can now buy a variety of floor cleaners that don’t require additional water. For example, Cif Floor Cleaners eliminate the need for a bucket of water as you can use them direct from the bottle. Simple.
12. Shorten your showers
Showers account for 25 per cent of an average household’s water use. Yikes. Simple changes like cutting your shower time by a couple of minutes could conserve water and cut your energy bills to boot. Why not invest in a waterproof shower timer to help you keep track?
13. Replace your showerhead
You’d expect a shower to use less water than a bath, but some power showers can rack up water usage in no time (well, within five minutes or so).
To make your showers more water efficient, you can use a low flow showerhead, which restricts the volume of water without compromising power. Or alternatively, aerating showerheads cleverly mix in air with the water giving the impression of a high-volume shower without using as much water.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, if a family of four replace their inefficient showerhead with a water efficient one, they could save around £40 off their gas bills and around £55 off their water bills (if they have a water meter) each year. That’s a total saving of around £95 – not bad.
14. Say bye-bye to bath time
Showers may guzzle water, but as long as you’ve followed our tips above, they’re still going to save water compared to baths. An average bath uses 80 litres of water, so a five-minute shower (at an average of 50 litres) is definitely the more water-efficient option.
15. Be a water-savvy consumer
We mentioned in the introduction that the production of consumer products, like clothes, uses vast amounts of water. So it’s worth looking out for products produced with less water. For example, water-smart hair care and laundry detergents.
16. Recycle used water
Have you ever thought about recycling water? For example, you can keep pasta cooking water, or water leftover from washing clothes or dishes by hand. Then use it to water plants in the garden, wash the kids’ bikes, or do a quick mop of the kitchen floor (we know we said no mopping with water, but this is okay).
17. Water your plants at the right time
Only water plants in the garden when they really need it. And when you do, make sure it’s in the early morning or at the end of the day – this will stop the water immediately evaporating in sunlight and heat. It’s also important to make sure you water the soil, not the leaves, so the liquid goes straight to the roots, where it’s needed.
18. Get a water butt
Need to water your plants, but want to do it the eco friendly way? Get a water butt. This way you can collect precious rainwater for later use. And you can even buy a bathwater diverter, which diverts used water from the shower or bath to the water butt.
19. Go crazy with water-saving gadgets
Low flow showerheads, water savers for toilets and water butts are only scratching the surface of the many clever water-saving devices you can buy for your home. Explore the SaveWaterSaveMoney website for ideas.
Want to be even greener?
If these ideas on how to conserve water have got you ready to make even more eco friendly changes around your home, take a look at our ultimate green living guide.