Water wise: 4 simple ways to save water

PUBLISHED: 10:19 06 March 2020

Contrary to popular opinion, showers don't always use less water than baths. Picture: iStock/PA.

Contrary to popular opinion, showers don't always use less water than baths. Picture: iStock/PA.

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Reducing water waste in our homes can slash bills and help the planet - and it could be easier than you think, says Luke Rix-Standing.

Consider showering while listening to music, and try to condense your shower into a single song. Picture: iStock/PAConsider showering while listening to music, and try to condense your shower into a single song. Picture: iStock/PA

The average UK household runs through 330 litres of water per day, not only straining one of our planet's most precious resources, but sometimes adding hundreds onto their utility bills.

If you're on a water meter, you've probably pegged that water waste means pounds down the plughole, but not everyone realises that it often impacts gas bills too. It's estimated that roughly 20 per cent of a typical gas bill is from heating water for taps and showers - corresponding to around £135 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Here's how to save water, money and help the environment by reducing water waste at home...

Tighten those taps

Estimates suggest that a single dripping tap haemorrhages up to 5,300 litres of water a year, so stemming the flow can save serious cash over weeks or months.

The fault will usually lie with the washer, which experienced DIY-ers can replace themselves. Start by turning off the water at an isolation valve or stopcock, and double check that your replacement washer is the right fit for your tap (most will take standard size).

Remove the handle and cover before unscrewing the main nut, while holding the body of the tap firmly in place. Pull the old washer off the pin with a pair of pliers, and put the new one in place the same way, using petroleum jelly to slide it down it if gets stuck.

Garden with a watering can, not a hosepipe, to save water. Picture: iStock/PAGarden with a watering can, not a hosepipe, to save water. Picture: iStock/PA

If this all sounds a bit technical, or you have a modern, washerless tap, do not attempt to do it yourself. When plumbing goes wrong, it goes really wrong, so unless you want to enjoy a long soak in rooms besides your bathroom, we recommend calling in the pros.

Tactical washing

One of history's greatest rivalries, alongside tea vs. coffee and cats vs. dogs, the bath-shower axis has long been governed by the principle that, although baths are more relaxing, showers are infinitely more efficient.

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This is often true, but not always. Exact estimates vary, but showers that last 10 minutes or more are very likely to use more water than a bath overall, while power showers, which use more water, can cut the tipping point to five or six minutes.

Having a shower is not in itself a virtue, but having a short shower works wonders when it comes to curbing water usage. Consider showering while listening to music, and try to condense your shower into a single song. For next-level optimisation, employ a so-called 'Navy shower' by temporarily switching the water off while lathering.

Perk up your plumbing

There's a whole host of appliances that can help you save water too. If you're wedded to washing by bathtub, consider a reduced capacity bath, as regular 80-litre tubs need a hefty volume to get even half full.

Old-fashioned cistern toilets use up to 13 litres a flush - that's a lot, for those unfamiliar with toilet mechanics - while modern units are required by law to at least cut that number in half.

Consider installing 'aerated' taps and shower heads, which simulate higher water pressure by injecting the flow with air, or at least eschew the high turnover of the modern power shower.

To help you identify water-efficient facilities, check for a European Water Label (yes, they'll still be there), which categorises products into one of five coloured-coded brands, or check for the Waterwise Recommended Checkmark.

Simple switches

Not every water-saving hack has to involve spanners and pipework, and there's a whole reservoir of simple, small-scale lifestyle changes that can have a noteworthy effect on your annual usage.

Halt unnecessary boil-off (and energy costs) by only filling the kettle with what you need; wash vegetables in a bowl, rather than under the tap; wait until you have a full load before starting a cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine - you get the idea.

A running tap wastes more than six litres every minute, so make sure to turn the tap off while brushing your teeth. Instead of waiting for the water to run cold when you're thirsty, put a bottle of tap water in the fridge and replenish as necessary, and garden with a watering can, not a hosepipe.

Day-to-day, conserving water is often about mindset, and if you're on the lookout for opportunities to save, you'll find them.


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