I turned on the kitchen tap the other day and nothing came out. No gush of clean clear drinkable water. Not even a trickle. Not a single drop in fact. It came back after an hour or so, but I’ll never forget how awful it felt to have no water.
It’s only when you don’t have any that you realise how much you need it. For drinking, the washing machine, loo, dishwasher, shower, the garden hosepipe…
The average person in the UK uses around 143 litres of water every day. You can double that for American households. We can’t take more water from rivers without damaging the environment and we can’t rely on rainfall. So we need to be smarter with how we use water, to protect our future and the future of our children.
Water is the world’s most precious resource and so anything we can do to use less has to be a good thing. Here are some simple, yet effective water saving ideas:
In the kitchen
Install a water meter. When you’re paying your utility provider for exactly how much water you use, laid out in an itemised bill, there’s an incentive to waste less of the stuff.
Only fill the kettle with the water you actually need, saving both water and energy.
Steam your veg instead of boiling it – it’s more nutritious and saves pot loads of water (and energy).
Save 6 litres of water a minute by having some water in the sink instead of running a tap. For example, washing vegetables in a bowl, not under a running tap, also makes them easier to peel.
Fill a jug with tap water and place it in your fridge. This will mean you won’t have to leave the tap running for the water to run cold before you fill your glass.
Fix a dripping tap. A dripping tap can waste 15 litres of water a day, or 5,500 litres of water a year.
Make it a full load when you use your washing machine or dishwasher. New dishwashers use less water than washing by hand.
Miss just one wash a week and you’ll save over 5,000 litres a year.
Invest in water-efficient goods when you need to replace household products. You can now get water-efficient shower heads, taps, washing machines, dishwashers and many other water-saving products.
In the bathroom
Don’t flush every time you tinkle. The average UK household flushes the loo 5000 times per year . 30% of the average water bill is generated by flushing toilets. Modern dual-flush systems save huge amounts of water. They use just 6 litres – or 4 with a reduced flush – much less than the 13 litres for each old-style single flush.
If you have an old style loo try popping a Save-A-Flush bag in each of your loos, you will reduce the water used by 1.2 litres per flush. Your local council may well supply these to you free of charge – definitely worth checking if they do.
Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth. Leaving the tap running wastes 6 litres of water per minute.
Showering uses less water. A bath uses around 80 litres of water whereas showers use an average of 35 litres. Some showers use more water than others – electric showers are already efficient and power showers use lots of water. Ideally choose a water saving shower head which will also save you money.
Take a shorter shower. Consider getting an aerated shower head, which combines water and air, or inserting a regulator in your shower, which puts an upper limit on flow rates.
In your garden
Plants prefer rainwater to tap water. Fit a water butt to a downpipe and collect rainwater for your garden. A water butt can collect around 5,000 litres a year.
Bit early yet, but when summer comes, let the kids splosh around in a half-full paddling pool and save up to 500 litres of water.
Use a bucket and sponge to wash the car, not a water-wasting hose.
Lawns may go brown in dry weather but quickly recover when it rains and don’t need to be watered in between. Cut grass slightly longer in dry periods and less often, leaving the cuttings on to retain moisture.
Apply a thick layer of mulch, compost or chip bark on your soil between plants to help keep the moisture in and suppress weeds. Ground cover plants are also effective because they shade the ground and inexpensive to buy.
Cooled bath, shower or laundry water can be used on plants if it is not too greasy but avoid re-using water with strong detergents or household cleaning agents.
Water your garden with a watering can rather than a hosepipe. A hosepipe can use as much as 1,000 litres of water an hour.
Water plants at the roots, rather than sprinkling water on leaves.
Fit a trigger gun to your hosepipe if, for any reason, it’s tricky to use a watering can.
Use a water-retaining gel for pots and hanging baskets.
Water plants in the early morning or evening when it is cooler and less water is lost to evaporation.
Give plants a good soaking once or twice a week in dry weather rather than light daily watering.