Water scarcity is becoming a reality. Some parts of the world are already seeing the impact of ongoing shortages where there is not enough water to meet the population’s needs. But unless we all act together to reduce water wastage and over-usage, the UK population too will find ourselves with not enough water to meet our needs in a few decades’ time.
Whilst few consider that water scarcity could ever be a problem in our ‘green and pleasant land’, the fact is that summers are getting drier, and winters are getting wetter. When we have too much rain over winter it cannot be salvaged, so will not see us through those drier months. A recent survey found that the public remains largely unaware of the risks that both climate change and population growth will undeniably have on the UK’s water supplies, with 72% of the public believing that the UK has enough water to meet its daily demands.
But whilst 71% of the earth is covered in water, only 3% of this is fresh water, and only 1% of that is available (the remaining 2% is locked away in the glaciers and ice caps). That means that water is a finite resource and that this 1% must sustain humans, animals, and plant life alike. It’s not a renewable resource; we can’t make more of it to fit a growing population.
That’s the macro approach, but as well as on a larger scale, saving water can also save your pennies on a smaller scale. The water saving project Save Water Clean Clever illustrates just how much water we get through in the UK every day. It shows we use 143 litres of water per person, on average! That’s a lot of water, and a lot of this is unnecessarily wasted. If we’re more conscious of where we’re using water, we can be more aware of how to minimise any waste.
How much water is wasted?
Some changes to routine are pretty obvious once we know about them. For example, did you know that a garden sprinkler uses a mammoth 1000 litres an hour?! That’s as much as a family of FOUR uses on average per day! Plus it’s not even an efficient system, as much of the water disappears into the air rather than waters your plants. Another water wastage culprit? Pre-rinsing dishes. Perhaps a necessity in times past, dishwashers are now fully equipped to clean a dirty plate properly (as long as food has been scraped off), and pre-rinsing totally undoes the environmental and economical benefit you’re enjoying by using your dishwasher instead of handwashing plates!
Water waste myths
When we hear stories about what is most economical and less wasteful, most of us try to adopt these little changes into our routines. But some of these ‘studies’ have been debunked! One example is the myth that baths waste more water than showers. The truth is more complicated, as it depends markedly on the type of shower you have and the time you spend in it! This study reported by the Guardian found that the average shower is eight minutes long, using nearly as much energy and water as a bath. An eight-minute power shower, meanwhile, uses almost TWICE as much water and energy as taking a bath – a change which could save families nearly £918 per year!
We’ve composed a list of our eleven favourite water saving methods, to inspire you to make the easy fixes and move towards a greener, eco-conscious future.
Our top 11 ways to save water in the bathroom:
- Modernise your toilet. Modern dual flush toilets can use as little as 2.6 litres to flush, whilst older models may use as many as 14! That’s quite the difference in terms of your water usage. Make sure to consider flush efficiency in any bathroom updates and redesigns you have in mind.
- Buy (or make) a cistern displacement device. Toilets account for a third of water used in the home per day! So if bathroom updates like modernising your sanitary ware aren’t on the agenda right now, try an easy fix on your toilet’s water usage by purchasing a cistern displacement device. Alternatively, create your own by filling an empty plastic bottle with water and adding it to your cistern. This can save three to four litres every time you flush!
- Install a high-efficiency showerhead. These showerheads use as little as six litres per minute, whilst maintaining brilliant cleaning function. That’s a pretty mammoth water saving of twenty litres per five minute shower compared to a non-efficient showerhead. If bathroom fittings redesigns aren’t on the horizon, save water in the shower by consciously trying to minimise shower time (always keeping to under five minutes), and consider keeping a bucket in there with you to catch ‘grey water’ to use this water for other household jobs.
- Fit taps with flow-controlled aerators. This isn’t a big cost investment, but can really lead to water savings. Flow-controlled aerators use less than 800mm of water per minute, saving a huge eight litres per minute compared to a non-fitted tap.
- Plug your bath! When running a bath, put the plug in before you even turn the tap on! Whilst this is an everyday scenario for those using walk-in baths, it’s not always the case for regular tub users. It’s tempting to run the tap until the water feels warm, and then add the plug. But in this scenario, you usually have to add cold water at the end anyway to moderate the temperature. Reverse this process and let the cold water be added first, so as not to waste litres of water unnecessarily. If it just takes too long for your hot water tap to heat up, catch that initial cold water in a bucket or watering can, so that you can utilise that ‘waste’ water for the garden, for the kettle, or to go in the fridge for a jug of fresh cool drinking water.
- Check your toilet for leaks. Your toilet can ‘leak’ from the cistern into the bowl silently and without you knowing, and that can really waste water unnecessarily. Check this at least once a year, by adding a drop of food colouring to the cistern. If the colour has bled out into the bowl within 15 minutes, you likely have a leak that needs attention (make sure to use the toilet soon after so that the colouring doesn’t stain and you can flush it away).
- Turn off the taps whilst you brush your teeth! This is a no-brainer, advice which has been added to the backs of toothpaste tubes for years now. But it truly is a waste of water to run clean water whilst you brush your teeth. Instead, turn off until you need to rinse, and save a staggering twelve litres of water every time you brush.
- Turn off the shower mid-use. Turning off is a bit of a theme here! But turning off the shower whilst you add shampoo and lather up your hair, and whilst you soap yourself, can save you 680 litres in wasted water per month.
- Turn off whilst you soap your hands. We’ve all committed to twenty-second hand-washing, but that can lead to wasted water if you leave the tap on whilst you make sure every inch of your hands is soaped up. Instead of wasting water, try wetting your hands, then turning off the tap before soaping up. Complete your soaping and then turn on again to rinse off.
- Stop that drip! Leaky taps are surprisingly easy to get used to, but even just one drip every second means 22 litres of water wasted in a day! Get a plumber in to get any leaky taps fixed as soon as you notice a problem.
- Stay ‘grey’! Water that’s been used in the bath, shower or washing machine is called ‘grey water’, as it contains any dirt as well as the cleaning products you used. Consider collecting this ‘grey water’ – whether with a bucket in your shower or scooped from your bath after use. Be careful to maintain your safety, especially in a walk-in shower, as your wellbeing is a primary consideration. Ditto with a wet room.
Although you obviously shouldn’t use your bathwater for drinking, you can still use this ‘used’ water for cleaning your home, to flush the toilet or even to water the garden, to minimise water wastage. ‘Grey water’ can be a really useful addition to your plant watering and can be used by everyone in times of drought. Bear in mind though that some soils (for example clay-rich ones) won’t benefit from the regular addition of any soap contaminants. But during a drought, it’s still a great idea.
We hope that these top eleven ideas for water saving in your bathroom are useful, and prompt you to make those little changes that make for big results – both in terms of economic savings and environmental ones!