Top tips for getting water wise
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Water waste is a big deal in these eco-conscious times. Here’s how we can use water more wisely at home and in the garden.
Did you know that London is drier than Istanbul and the South East of England has less available water per person than the Sudan and Syria?
These alarming facts come from Waterwise, an organisation which seeks to ensure that water efficiency is an integral part of everyone’s life.
The UK already has less available water per person than most other European countries, and as our population grows, more and more people are sharing our already limited resource.
The more water that is consumed, the less there is available for the environment, which needs protecting. This is why it is crucial that we know how to use water wisely and not waste it.
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‘Hidden’ effects of excessive water consumption include a reduction in the production of agriculture and an increase in other environmental problems; degradation or rivers, wetlands and bays and the necessary building of expensive reservoirs to help make up for this. Maintaining infrastructure for water supply and use also costs, as does the fuel used in distributing water.
By using less water at home and in the garden, we are helping to protect wildlife that lives in wetlands and rivers, while cutting the energy needed to treat and pump water for domestic use. We’re also helping minimise the impact of water shortages and building a defence against future drought years. In other words – by addressing this and saving water now in our own way, we are ensuring a water supply that is adequate for future generations.
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What can I do at home to use water wisely?
Small changes add up to make a big difference – to your pocket and to the environment.
Most domestic water use – around 93 per cent – is indoors, from using toilets, personal washing, laundry and water used in the kitchen. A tap left running for one minute wastes six litres of water. And the 45 million toilets in the UK means that we flush approximately two billion litres of water every day. In fact, 30 per cent of the water we use at home is through flushing toilets.
Behavioural changes and choosing more water efficient products help. Try to:
- Turn off taps when you brush your teeth
- Look out for and fix leaky taps
- Purchase a water efficient toilet with a dual flush button. Most new homes have these and they can save up to nine litres of water per flush. Old-style loos have flush systems which take up 13 litres per flush, as opposed to the modern ones which use between four and six litres.
- Consider installing a Cistern Displacement Device (CDD). They are easy to put in and save up to 5,000 litres per year. They’re free from most water companies too.
- Avoid flushing away cotton wool balls or face/baby wipes. Put them in the bin instead.
- Have a shower instead of a bath. A bath can use 80 litres whereas a shower uses a third of this amount. However, power showers can use more than a bath. Showering has become more popular. In the 1970s just 20 per cent of households owned one but now that figure is 85 per cent. This saves on your water bill and your energy bill because of the heating of water associated with having a shower.
- Shower for less time and think about switching to an aerated shower head which reduces flow but not pressure of water. Low flow shower heads reduce water used but apparently feel like a normal shower.
- If you can’t do without your baths, aim to run the water to an inch less deep, which conserves an average of five litres.
- Laundry takes up 15 per cent of household water usage. Buy a washing machine with a Waterwise ranking: the best models use less than 7.5 litres per kg. Read the manual to check which cycles are most water efficient and wash as many clothes up to capacity as you can.
Watering wisely in your garden
Sparingly watering the garden conserves resources, so knowing when to water can be useful. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends checking how moist the soil is at spade depth – if the soil feels damp, you are unlikely to need to water it but if it seems dry then watering is usually necessary.
Clay soil, however, can feel wet when all available water has been used and sand soil sometimes feels dry even if some water is still available.
Prioritise newly sown or planted areas, watering them often. Mulching reduces moisture loss, while removing weeds is essential, as they use up moisture from the soil’s reserves.
Other ways to be water wise in the garden include ditching sprinkler systems (or only using them early or late in the day), using pressure washers sparingly, attaching a trigger nozzle to hoses – or using watering cans instead.
Finally, catch rainwater in water butts, then use it on your garden – free water!