Having clean running water in our homes is something we take for granted in the UK. But how much thought do you give to whether you’re wasting water, and could be a bit more efficient with it? Our essential water saving tips will help you save water, save money and do your bit for the environment.
Save water, save money
The average person in the UK gets through 150 litres of water a day, and while it might seem we have an abundance of the stuff (it certainly rains enough, right?), water doesn’t just magically appear in our pipes – there’s a lengthy, energy-consuming process involved in getting it there and ensuring it’s clean.
Making an effort to save water in the home will not only save money if you’re on a water meter (and also through reducing energy bills, in some instances), but is greener – and could help prevent predicted water shortages in the near future.
“There are many reasons why it’s important to save water, but along with climate change and population growth, we’re using more and more water in our daily lives,” says Stephanie Hurry, head of water efficiency and customer participation at Waterwise (waterwise.org.uk), the UK’s independent authority on water efficiency. “And if we continue to do so with no change, there will come a point where we’ll experience severe water shortages.
“We’ve already started to see the impact on rivers. This really highlights the importance around the need to save water and protect this precious resource for generations to come.
“Collectively, small actions can really make a substantial difference – and if every household in the UK took the time to have a shorter shower, turn the tap off and reduce their consumption, we could save millions of litres to help ensure there’s enough water for the future and the environment too,” she stresses.
14 water-saving tips
Wondering how you could help save water – and money – here are 14 top tips to save water as recommended by Waterwise and Friends of the Earth.
1. Take a short shower instead of a bath
Take a shorter shower instead of a deep bath (a four-minute shower uses around 48 litres of water, and a deep bath can use 70-80 litres). Friends of the Earth says every minute you spend in a power shower uses up to 17 litres of water, so they suggest householders set a timer on their phones to keep showers short and water-saving. Plus, hot water uses energy, so by having fewer baths and shorter showers, you’ll also save money on energy bills as well as the water bill if you’re on a meter.
2. Get a low-flush toilet
The average UK household flushes the toilet 5,000 times per year. FoE explains that modern dual-flush systems save huge amounts of water, using just six litres – or four with a reduced flush – much less than the 13 litres for each old-style single flush. If you can’t invest in a new toilet, get a cistern displacement device (CDD), which is placed in the toilet cistern to displace around one litre of water every time it’s flushed. CDDs are available free from most water companies, and Waterwise says they are ‘super-easy to install, and can achieve savings of up to 5,000 litres per year’.
3. Don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth
Tend to leave the tap running while brushing your teeth? That’s around six litres of water per minute just washing wantonly down the plughole. This is one of the simplest bad habits to break – just wet your brush, turn off the tap, then turn it back on quickly at the end to rinse. You’ll quickly get used to it.
4. Use a washing-up bowl
The same principle applies to doing the washing-up. Filling a bowl tends to use considerably less water than washing each item under a running tap. Plus, as ENGIE points out, washing up twice a day with a bowl, instead of leaving the hot tap running, could save around £25 a year on your gas bill and around £30 a year on your water bill (if you have a water meter).
5. Don’t leave hot water running for ages to ‘heat it up’
You like a nice hot shower – who can blame you! But we really don’t need to turn the water on a good five or 10 minutes before getting in (if it really does take this long for your water to heat up, isn’t it time to get the boiler checked?). Nobody’s saying you need to stop having baths, or you should be taking cold showers; just make sure the water you’re running is being used, not mindlessly wasted.
6. Fix leaks
Mend any leaking taps or toilets. This can stop 60 litres of water going down the drain every week, Friends of the Earth points out. Waterwise highlights that leaking toilets waste an average of 200-400 litres of water a day. So don’t leave leaky taps or toilets to drip on for ages – sort them out yourself if you can or get a plumber in to fix them.
7. Buy water-efficient products
Look for efficient products, such as aerated taps and shower heads. Waterwise says an efficient shower head could reduce household bills by up to £120 per year.
8. Boil sensibly
Only fill the kettle with what you need. As well as saving water, this also saves energy and money.
9. Fully fill washing machines and diswashers before use
Ensure you fully fill washing machines and dishwashers before doing a wash, and use the eco setting if available. Washing a full machine load of clothes uses less water and energy than two half-loads. Better still, try to get into the habit of being a bit more mindful of how frequently you’re putting on a wash. For instance, you really don’t need a fresh towel with every bath/shower (keep the room well ventilated and hang them up to air), and if you’re in the habit of tossing things into the laundry basket on auto-pilot, consider whether each item could last another wear or two (common sense of course – this doesn’t extend to underwear and sweaty vests!). Believe it or not, if you fill up the dishwasher completely each time you run it, you’ll also use less water than you would doing the washing up manually – even if you use a washing-up bowl.
How often should you wash your jeans, towels, sheets and bras? Read our guide.
10. Gather rainwater for gardening
Installing water butts saves up to 5,000 litres of water a year, says Friends of the Earth, and you can use the collected water to water your plants.
11. Reduce food waste
It takes a great deal of water to produce cereal, fruit and other food – yet more than seven million tonnes of food and drink are binned by UK households every year, and Friends of the Earth says more than half of it could be eaten. So try to reduce food waste – this could save you around £480 a year too, they point out.
12. Steam food
Cut water use by steaming veg and other foods, and the food will also retain more nutrients. If you do boil, use the cooled water later to water your plants.
13. Water plants wisely
You can also cut water use by 33% by watering plants manually, instead of using automatic sprinklers. Water outdoor plants in the early morning or at the end of the day, to stop water immediately evaporating in sunlight and heat. Also, water the soil so that the liquid goes straight to the roots where it’s needed.
14. Eat less meat
Rearing animals for meat and dairy is incredibly water-intensive. By cutting down on the amount of meat you eat, you can reduce your water footprint drastically.