The Facts Print

Why is water an issue?

You may wonder why saving water is important as it appears to rain all the time in the UK. Wet summers and even wetter winters seem to keep the garden nice and green and our rivers flowing. Despite having a seemingly wet climate some parts of the UK are experiencing water shortages. The South East of England has less water available per person than Sudan and Syria.

It is not feasible for us to give our water to parts of the world where they are suffering serious droughts, so surely it should be ok for us to use all our water? Yes, Waterwise doesn’t want people to stop using water, we want people to stop wasting water. The key to water efficiency is reducing waste, not restricting use. About one third of the water each person uses on a daily basis is wasted – it runs straight down the plughole or down the toilet without being used. It is this wastage we want to cut down.

Why save water? – The facts

The UK has less available water per person than most other European countries. London is drier than Istanbul, and the South East of England has less water available per person than the Sudan and Syria.

Water is scarce in parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in England - large scale drought is already occurring in the UK, with the lowest rainfall, groundwater and reservoir levels for decades.

Each person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day. This takes into account cooking, cleaning, washing and flushing. This has been rising by 1% a year since 1930. This consumption level is not sustainable in the long-term.

If we do not take action now, climate change, population shifts and behaviour mean the UK will face increased water stress in the future.

Waterwise is currently carrying out cost-benefit analysis on the advantages of demand side measure rather than supply side measures. It is Waterwise’s opinion that water efficiency and water meters when combined with improving leaks from water mains is more cost effective and better for the environment than building new reservoirs to increase the supply of water.

The water cycle is continuous and it will rain and replace water that has been abstracted for use in the home, however, there is no guarantee where and when the rain will fall, and your supply might be depleted before the next downpour.

Saving water will not only save the environment, but if you are on a water meter it will save you money on your water bill, and it will save you money on your energy bill if you reduce your hot water consumption.

Waterwise has carried out some research and found that the energy used to pump, treat and heat the water in the average family's home produces the carbon equivalent of a return flight from London to New York. These carbon emissions are a global problem, because they are aggravating the effects of climate change. Therefore, saving water will also help alleviate climate change and can make the water scarcity problem in another country less severe. So, even though we cannot help other nations by transporting our water to them, we can help them by reducing our carbon emissions by wasting less hot water.

Why save water? – The figures

A running tap uses 6 litres of water a minute, a shower can use anywhere between 9 – 45 litres per minute, a hosepipe uses as much as 1000 litres per hour.

Toilet flushing accounts for 30% of our daily water use – with old toilets using as much as 14 litres per flush compared to new dual flush models which use as little as 2.6 and 4 litres per flush.

Fixing a dripping tap can save as much as 5000 litres a year – if everyone in the UK fixed their dripping taps we would save enough water to supply 120,000 for one day

How to save water? – The tips

There are numerous ways you can save water. You can purchase water efficient products and install them. This means you can fix and forget. You can install the product, and you don’t have to alter your behavior in anyway. However, there are also things that you can do for free which save water. For a full list of what you can do to save water please check out our Quick Tips section.

- Turn the tap off when you brush your teeth – a running tap wastes 6 litres of water a minute. If everyone in the UK who currently leaves the tap running when they brush their teeth turned it off instead – we would save 446 million litres of water – enough water to supply 2.9 million people for one day – that’s the entire population of Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow and Sheffield (the UK’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th largest cities) for one whole day.

- Don’t use your toilet as a dustbin – an unnecessary flush uses another cistern full of water. Put your face wipes, cotton wool balls in your dustbin rather than down the toilet. If everyone in the UK who currently uses their toilet as a dustbin, stopped doing this, we would save 27 million litres of water a week – that’s enough to supply the population of York or Portsmouth for one day.

- Use the left over water from your night time drinks to water houseplants – this saves new water being poured into the plants and your drink being poured down the plughole.

- Invest in a water butt and connect it to your drainpipe in your garden - this can then collect some of the 85,000 litres of rainfall that falls on your roof every year. This water can be used to water your garden, clean your car and wash your windows

- Install a cistern displacement device in your toilet – these can be obtained free of charge from your water company and displaces water in your cistern so that the volume of water in your flush is reduced by between 1 – 3 litres. To see which displacement device you should get please look at our toilet flushing page. Please note, that you do not need a cistern displacement device if you have a dual flush toilet.

Embedded water

The average Briton really consumes over 3400 litres every day! This amount includes the water we use daily in our homes, but it also includes the amount embedded in all that we consume.

Water is hidden in all that we see: in our cars, our clothing, and in our sandwiches. But we can significantly and easily reduce our water footprints. We can buy water efficient white goods, turn off the tap while we brush our teeth, fix leaks, and make many other easy efforts.

We can start asking shops to provide information on how much water is embedded in their products. And we can ask our leaders to make water use efficiency across all sectors of society a priority.

For more information on embedded water
click here

The water situation in Scotland