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How to save water at home

How to save water at home

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

14 guides

Water is a precious commodity. But we can all do our bit to protect this essential resource by adopting simple habits such as showering instead of bathing, repairing leaks and watering plants using recycled water. Read on for our no-waste tips on saving water and cutting down on your metered water bill.

Important features

  • Considering your water consumption
  • Water-saving alternatives
  • Reusing water
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In the UK, we consume an average of 141 litres of water per person per day*. Household tasks (dishes, washing and cleaning) and personal hygiene (washing hands and face, cleaning teeth and showering) account for over 90% of the total volume of water used. You may not realise it but everyday actions such as flushing the toilet or taking a bath make up the bulk of your overall household water consumption. It is essential to consume this resource responsibly. If you want to save water, your first move should be to prevent any water from being wasted.

A dripping tap can consume up to 120 litres of water per day. A leaking toilet, on the other hand, can waste up to 600 litres of water a day. It is therefore essential to identify any leaks and repair them as quickly as possible. A good tip for spotting potential leaks is to check your water meter: take note of the reading before going to bed and then again when you wake up in the morning. If the numbers don't match, carry out the following steps:

  • inspect all your taps carefully;
  • check all connections and pipes for signs of leaks;
  • remember to check all outdoor taps, seals and water inlets.

Add a couple of drops of food colouring to your toilet cistern to detect any leaks. If you cannot find the source of the leak, call in a professional.

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Responsible water consumption involves reducing the amount of time your water supply is in use as much as possible. 

  • Turn off the water while you lather up in the shower and while scrubbing your hands.
  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or fill up a glass of water before you start.
  • Don't let the water run in the kitchen sink while you wash the dishes.
  • If you are watering something at the end of the garden, put your hose into position before turning on the water.

Turning off the tap as quickly as possible will allow you to save dozens of litres of water every day. A great move for the planet and your bank balance!

Of course it's a good idea to take a shower rather than a bath, but only if you keep your showers short. Cleaning your car isn't an issue either – as long as you do it using a bucket of water. Before you turn on the tap, think twice about how you are using your fresh water supply. Changing your water habits is all about becoming more conscious and more responsible.

  • Set up a timer in the bathroom to keep tabs on the length of your showers.
  • If you don't have a dishwasher, use a couple of basins instead: use one for washing and the other for rinsing.
  • When it comes to cooking, a pressure cooker is the most water-efficient option.
  • Quench your thirst with water from the tap rather than buying plastic bottles – especially if you have access to high-quality water. Otherwise, you can fit your tap with a filter.
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Toilet flushing is the largest single use of water in the home. Older models use an average of 9 litres of water per flush

  • Choose a dual flush toilet which will use 3 or 6 litres of water, depending on the button you press. 
  • Alternatively, you can place a plastic water-filled bottle in the cistern so less water is flushed.
  • It's also worth noting that a dry flush toilet doesn't require any water at all.

Test the pressure and flow rate of your water supply: if your pressure is above 4 bar, install a pressure reducing valve to your main water line.

Managing water flow

  • Fitting your taps with aerators will reduce their flow by 30 to 50%.
  • Installing a water-saving shower head instead of a traditional model can cut your water usage by up to 75%.

Picking the right household appliances

  • If your budget allows it, go for energy-efficient household appliances. Check the energy label and only choose those with an A+++ energy rating.
  • Be sure to check the volume of water used during each cycle.
  • When washing clothes, select an eco setting or cool wash cycle.
  • The golden rule is to always make sure you have a full load in the washing machine or dishwasher before launching them.

Recycling wastewater

Consider any 'clean' water that you may be wasting.

  • The water you use to rinse your vegetables and some types of cooking water (once cooled) can be used to water plants.
  • You can also pour dishwater down the toilet instead of using the flush.
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Washing clothes

Rainwater can help you to save a significant amount of water. 

  • Set up a rainwater collection system in the garden instead of using drinking water to water your plants.
  • If you connect the system to your home, you can also use rainwater to flush your toilet and feed your washing machine.
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Rainwater collection system

How and when to water your garden

  • Do not water during the hottest hours of the day in the summertime; water in the morning or evening instead.
  • Trench edging your plants will help to reduce water loss.
  • Loosen the soil before watering to allow the water to increase infiltration.
  • Mulching your plants will limit water evaporation and will also save you the task of weeding.

Automatic water systems

An automatic watering system is a great way to control the amount of water you use in the garden. It will also prevent you from having to water on a daily basis. The most sophisticated water timers may even include a humidity sensor which will pause the watering system if it has rained or if it is expected to rain.

A drip irrigation system does not consume a lot of water and can be positioned at the roots of your plants to help make the most of your water supply. If you don't want to set up this kind of system, you can always opt for a microporous hose instead. In addition to saving water, connecting your hose to a smart timer will also lower your metered water bill.

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Weeding tools

To give you a broader idea of water consumption:

  • 10 litres of water are required to make one A4 sheet of paper;
  • 70 litres are used for one apple;
  • 8,000 litres for a pair of shoes, and so on.

These astronomical quantities represent the amount of water required to grow, process and transport each of these products. Established under the direction of international organisations, the 'water footprint' metric includes any water consumed indirectly through industrial-level production. The more natural, local and unprocessed a product is, the lower its water footprint will be. 

Curious to find out your own water footprint? A number of organisations offer online questionnaires designed to give you a precise calculation.

 * estimations by The Waterwise Project

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Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford, 14 guides

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

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