Reducing Water Waste



Water is a readily available commodity, and this can imbue a sense of it being an inexhaustible resource, in constant and plentiful supply, leading to a false sense of complacancy about this precious and essential life-sustaining resource.  Potable drinking water actually only represents approximately 1% of the planet's total water, and with the onset of the real effects of Climate Change now becoming ever-more apparent, and the increasingly extreme weather variances that accompany this development, the reliability and dependability of our potable water supply, is becoming more unpredictable and less certain.

The increasing frequent occurrence of drought conditions across Europe, aligns with present Climate Change projections from Academia, and thusly we all, need to play an active part in protecting this precious resource for future generations. Water is of course a global issue, but the UK’s widespread reputation for having a wet climate, somewhat distracts from the real relationship between rainfall and the water available to us for our everyday use and consumption.


The Water Utilities actually capture far less rainwater for our use than people in general commonly assume, with parts of the UK already subject to a scenario referred to within the industry as 'Water Stress'.  At present, 12 out of the 23 water companies operating in the UK, are currently rated as being in a condition of ‘serious’ Water Stress.


Water is also intrinsically linked to the energy the Water Utilities need to treat and pump water through their networks to end users, and is commonly significantly underestimated, for example, Scottish Water is actually the largest user of electricity in Scotland.  


To add further urgency to this increasingly pressing matter, demand in the UK is set to rise in the near future, thusly increasing the imperitive for all of us to be responsible in our water usage.  Quality of living, housing standards and social behaviours alter over time, has inevitably contributed to an increasing demand on our water supply, through such factors as improved personal hygiene and greater personal care options.  Indeed, technological developments and advancements, whilst providing in themselves enormous economic benefits, have also seemingly lead to increased water use.

Add to this mix, the pressures of an ever-increasing population volume in the UK, and domestic usage now accounts for in excess of 50% of all public water supply usage. Conversely, trade, industrial and commercial water consumption has actually declined in recent years, due in part to more water-efficient industrial processes. Agriculture remains a surprisingly light user in comparison, only consuming around 1% of our water resources.


Based on recent research by Waterwise, the average UK household uses approximately 330 litres of tap water daily, equating to around 140 litres per person. However, Waterwise advise that roughly 85% of people are unaware of how much water they use per day, and when quizzed, most underestimate their use dramatically, and presume that they only use between 50 and 100 litres per day.


The average UK drinking water and waste water bill for homes with water meters is around £405, and it is estimated by the Energy Saving Trust, that around 17% of the average heating bill for a home in the UK, actually relates to heating water for domestic use. Therefore, using water wisely can make a difference, both in terms of financial impact and environmentally, and not just for metered properties, but also in terms of energy costs.


The Energy Saving Trust's 2013 'At Home With Water' usage report, details how we all need to significantly change our perspective on how we use water, in addition to highlighting the necessity to make a personal contribution and difference to the amount of water we use and how we use it. The Energy Saving Trust identified that nearly 50% of homes could make water efficiency improvements to their Toilet use, simply by using cistern water displacement device to save up to a couple of litres per flush, or upgrading to a dual-flush Toilet, which alone, could save up to approximately 12,500 litres annually per person - the equivalent of 150 average-sized Bathfuls. However, Toilets are not actually the biggest offender, Showers are the biggest culprit for water waste, along with the considerable expense heating the amount of water they use.


There are a number of simple and well established ways to reduce water usage in the home, and combining these often produces notable savings:-


  • Take short duration Showers instead of Baths whenever possible, as this uses considerably less water. 
  • Use cold water rather than hot where possible, as this will save energy and associated costs.
  • Ensure Washing Machines and Dishwashers are suitably full before using them, to obtain optimal benefit.
  • Turn off taps while brushing your teeth (perhaps use a tumbler or mug), and when they’re not in purposeful use.
  • Installing a water-saving device (often supplied free by Water Utilities) can make a significant difference in consumption.
  • Fitting your Shower with a more efficient Showerhead can improve the efficiency of the Shower, requiring less water and energy.
  • Fitting flow regulators or aerators to taps, can also improve the efficiency.
  • Using Water Butts to capture rainwater and to reuse water in the garden for irrigation, plant and lawn watering.  
  • Water efficient Toilets, with efficient dual-flush functions, can contribute to considerable savings.
  • Reduced-capacity Baths, Sinks and Basins, use less water.
  • Reduced or Low-Flow taps contribute to less water usage.


Every new domestic system or appliance that uses water, now comes with a label advising how it can help you reduce water use. Pay particular attention to the water consumption, in addition to energy consumption performance, when looking to purchase domestic appliances such as Washing Machines and Dishwashers.

Additionally, improved building standards in New Build properties should also contribute to water efficiency, with more stringent rules on the types of fittings installed into new buildings. In due course, new properties will have water efficiency factors inbuilt as standard. However, water-conscious consumer behaviours will still contribute far more to water saving and in reducing bills for water and energy usage.



Nearly a quarter of British people admit they have no idea how much water they use, according to a study commissioned by the Water Regulation Advisory Scheme (WRAS).  In summary, the following findings were identified:-


The average UK household uses 350 litres per day, but people estimate their family uses just 157 litres – an underestimation of some 55%.


The survey found that 10% wash their car with a jet washer or hose pipe rather than a bucket, while Brits spend an average of seven minutes 30 seconds in the shower, which could use up to 90 litres of water.


In addition, taps are left running for an average of 54 second while brushing teeth, which could be wasting nearly 12 litres of water in the process.


Washing machines are one of the biggest culprits of water usage, using approximately 50 litres per wash, with older machines using even more than this. Over 80 per cent underestimated this amount, assuming 18 litres per load, on average.


Julie Spinks, managing director of WRAS, said: "Although more than half (53%) of UK homes now have a water meter, research shows that people are still not giving a huge amount of thought to their water usage at home, even if it could save them money and help the environment.  There is still a long way to go in convincing most households to be more conscious of their water consumption. Many water companies give away water efficiency products to customers for free, yet 47% don’t have any kind of water-saving device at home. Products such as toilet leak detection strips, shower timers and cistern displacement devices can save litres of valuable water, and WRAS supports the use of compliant plumbing products that use technology to automatically reduce water and energy consumption, without people even noticing a difference."


As featured in Articles by Robin Hackett, Deputy Editor, WWT and WET News.