We use 70 per cent more water now than we did 40 years ago. On average, we each use 150 litres per day but, when we take into account all the water required to produce what we use, it adds up to over 4,500 litres per day.
A third of the water produced is lost through leaky pipework before it reaches us.
One billion people worldwide are still without access to clean water. Many exist on only ten litres per day, which is as little as a single toilet flush. Millions of people are displaced each year through water shortages – more than the number fleeing war zones. By 2025 it is estimated that over two billion may be without access to water.
In China, the rapid increase in the population and economy has led to severe water shortages. The groundwater level in Beijing has dropped by two metres every year.
Climate change, our growing population and lifestyle changes are all having their impact on water. Installing a water meter can reduce household water use by 15 per cent. Here are some other things you can do.
Read your meter every month and compare it with previous months. Make sure it stops when there is no demand.
Make sure storage tanks are checked annually and set to around 2cm below the overflow pipe. A dripping overflow can waste the equivalent of a bathful of water in one day.
We flush 30 per cent of our drinkable water down the toilet. Installing a dual flush toilet can reduce each flush by up to nine litres. Check with your local water company to see if they supply a free Hippo device which will save water on every flush.
Check to see whether you have a leaky loo by placing a piece of dry toilet paper on the back of the pan for half an hour.
A five minute shower will use 35 litres of water (not a power shower, which will use 90 litres in five minutes – more than the 80 litres it takes to run a bath). Aerated and low flow shower heads reduce the flow but maintain the pressure.
Brushing your teeth with the tap running uses six litres of water per minute.
Bottled water is often more expensive than petrol and up to 500 times the cost of tap water. The cost of each litre of water bottled in a disposable PET bottle is: 162g of oil, seven litres of water, 100g of CO2 released and a major greenhouse gas GHG.
Only three per cent of our tap water is used for drinking. Keep a jug in the fridge instead of running the tap until water is cold.
Keeping a tap running in the kitchen can waste 95 per cent of water. Use a bowl to rinse vegetables or wash dishes.
A dripping tap can waste over 5000 litres of water a year. Replacing a washer for a few pence can save you pounds.
Using a water-efficient dishwasher or washing machine can save 50 litres of water per cycle. Both use less water than hand washing, but make sure you have a full load.
Washing a car with a bucket uses ten litres of water. Using a hosepipe uses 16 litres per minute.
In a year, the water that lands on the average house roof could fill 300 water butts, or be used to wash the car or top up a garden pond. Butts can be linked together to fill from one downpipe and can come off any building with a roof.
Household grey water can be used to water plants.
A garden sprinkler or hose will use the equivalent of an average family’s daily water supply in one hour. Sprinklers can often do more harm than good, encouraging shallow root growth that relies on being watered.