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Friday, 5 October 2012

Water: using less at home

Water is a precious resource that needs to be used carefully. Water taken from rivers and lakes for human use has an impact on wildlife too. Find out how to cut your water use, save money on your water bills and help the environment.

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Why saving water at home is important

In the UK, each person uses on average 150 litres of water daily, with the average household using over 100,000 litres of water every year. Imagine 317 pints of milk and that’s 150 litres of water. One fifth of a household’s carbon footprint comes just from heating water for baths, showers and washing up.

Treating, transporting and heating domestic water also uses a lot of energy, which adds to your fuel bills, and contributes to climate change.

Turn off the taps

Leaving a tap running while you are cleaning your teeth, or washing fruit and vegetables can waste about nine litres of water a minute. Instead of letting water and money go down the drain, here are some ways to cut down on wastage:

  • save the cold water that comes through before a tap runs hot, and use it to water plants
  • keep a jug of water in the fridge instead of waiting for the tap to run cold
  • turn off the taps when you're brushing your teeth or shaving
  • wash fruit and vegetables in a washing-up bowl full of water instead of under a running tap

Another way to reduce your water use is to fit regulators or spray ends to washbasin taps. An aerator mixes air with water and can reduce water consumption by up to 50 per cent. A regulator controls the amount of water that comes out of the taps. Some taps can use over ten litres of water a minute.

Flush less water down the toilet

Most water companies provide 'hippos' free for their customers 

Toilet flushing accounts for about a third of household water usage. You probably flush away as much water in a day as you drink in a whole month. There are easy ways to reduce this:

  • install a water saving bag ('save-a-flush' or 'hippo') in the cistern of a higher flush toilet - this reduces the water used with each flush
  • when buying a new toilet, choose a water-saving, low-flush or dual-flush version
  • fit a variable flushing device to existing higher flush toilets - this will give you a choice of flush volumes to help save water
  • throw cotton wool, sanitary products and other waste in the bin, not the toilet

Take shorter showers

A quick shower can use much less water than a bath. However, not all showers are water efficient. High volume power showers can use more water than a bath in less than five minutes.

To save water, you could use a shower timer to reduce your time in the shower. One minute off your shower time, for a family of four would save 12,000 litres of water a year.

Fit a flow regulator or aerated shower head. Fitting a water flow regulator to your shower head reduces the amount of water used by about 30 per cent. This will not reduce the performance of your shower.

Use water-efficient appliances

Half-load cycles use much more than half the energy and water of a full load

The amount of water consumed by dishwashers and washing machines varies greatly.

All new dishwashers and washing machines have a European (EU) energy label, which tells you how efficient the appliance is at using water and energy. A is most efficient and G is least efficient, so choosing carefully can save you money, water and energy. You could also:

  • look for a washing machine that uses less than 50 litres per wash
  • look for a dishwasher that uses less than 15 litres per wash
  • try to use appliances only when they’re full - half-load cycles use much more than half the energy and water of a full load

Fix dripping taps and leaks

A dripping tap can waste up to 15 litres of water a day. Water leaks mean you're paying for water you haven't used. They can also cause a lot of damage to your property and possibly to neighbouring properties.

These simple plumbing jobs can save a lot of water without being expensive:

  • fix dripping taps or overflows; a new washer costs just a few pence and can be fitted in minutes
  • install a leak detector to warn you about leaks anywhere in your house
  • put lagging on your outside pipes to help avoid burst pipes and leaks in winter

Your water company will be able to advise you on the cost of a leak detector and how to fit one.

Make use of greywater and rainwater

Any water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called greywater. Shower, bath and washbasin water can be re-used in the home and in the garden. You can use greywater for flushing toilets, washing the car, watering plants or even for the washing machine.

To make use of rain water you will need a large rainwater harvesting system. This must be linked to your domestic plumbing. More advice on rainwater harvesting can be found on the Renewable Energy Centre website.

Insulate water pipes

When you turn off the hot water tap, several litres of hot water are left in the pipes between the tap and the boiler. In unlagged pipes this rapidly cools, meaning the next time the hot tap is used, those litres of water often get wasted. By insulating the pipes, the heat is retained for longer, so the next time the hot water is drawn, it won’t have cooled so much.

Hot water pipes often heat the cold water pipe too, so a lot of water is wasted waiting for the tap to run cold. Insulating both pipes keeps hot water hot and cold water cold.

As well as saving water, lagging pipes saves on your heating bills and carbon emissions.

For more information about insulating water pipes and saving money, visit the Energy Saving Trust website.

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