How can I reduce water use within the home?

The average domestic use of water in the UK is 150 litres per person per day, but it is easy to reduce this to 70-80 litres per day.

You could start with a few behaviour changes, at little or no cost:

  • Taps run at between 5 and 20 litres per minute, so turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, avoid rinsing vegetables under a running tap, and so on.
  • Turn the shower flow off when not needed - e.g. when using shampoo/soap.
  • Wash your hands under a cold tap rather than running the hot tap until it is warm.
  • Use a washing bowl rather than filling a large sink, and as little hot water as is needed each time.
  • Whenever possible, wait for a full load in the washing machine or dishwasher, rather than using half-load cycles (these can use three-quarters as much energy and water as a full wash).
  • In some households, not flushing everytime after urinating may be OK.

Then look at various water saving gadgets and technical fixes:

  • Fix leaking taps by replacing washers - a slight drip can waste 30 litres per day. tap & ball valve washers are cheap and easy to fix.
  • For older toilets that use about 9 litres (2 gallons) or more, add a 'cistern displacement device' to reduce flush volume. This could be an expading bag (often available from your water company), or a plastic bottle filled with water (avoid using a brick as these crumble and cause problems). Check the device/bottle does not obstruct the mechanism, and the toilet still flushes OK with the reduced volume. Alternatively, some toilets can have a new siphon unit or flush lever added to give low flush options.
  • Check the flow rate of your shower with a container and stopwatch, and consider reducing the flow rate if appropriate. Older mixer showers can flow at about 20 litres per minute, but a flow restrictor or modern shower head can reduce this to 5 or 6 litres per minute and still perform well. Flow restrictors (such as the 'Aquaflow' range) are sometimes free from your water company. low-flow shower heads are now widely available; some atomise the flow (delivering it in smaller droplets), others aerate the spray (giving the sensation of greater volume) and others reduce the number of jets.
  • Make sure all hot pipes are insulated,

At a higher cost:

  • Install a new low flush toilet.
  • When looking at the plumbing in more depth, minimise 'dead legs' in pipes.
  • Consider alternatives to flush toilets, such as composting loos, waterless urinals.

There is more detail on these suggestions, and on other aspects of water use, in the book Choosing Ecological Water Supply and Treatment.


A water saving device in the cistern


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