The majority of water usage in the home is done indoors, accounting for approximately 93% of the overall water usage at home. This includes toilets, personal washing, kitchen, clothes washing.
Consumers can help reduce waste by making small behavioural changes and by choosing more water efficient products.
Toilets use about 30% of the total water used in a household.
There are around 45 million toilets in UK homes, using an estimated two billion litres of fresh water every day.
Over seven million of those are old style single flush toilets which use 13 litres of water per flush.
Approximately five million are the latest low-flush models which are more water-efficient dual-flush toilets and use only six litres for a full flush and four litres with a reduced flush
Considering the average household flushes 5000 times per year, savings of up to 5000 litres per year could be achieved just by simply installing a cistern displacement device (CDD). These are available for free from most water companies. These devices are easy to install and are placed in the toilet cistern to displace approximately one litre of water every time you flush.
Purchasing a water efficient toilet
Many toilets today feature a dual flush option to help you save water. These types of toilets have a split flush button giving the user the choice of pressing a small button or a large button depending on how much water is required to clear the toilet bowl. Look for dual flush toilets if you are considering purchasing a new toilet for your home.
Detecting leaks and repairing your toilet
An easy way to check if your toilet has a slow leak, is to add a few drops of food colouring to your toilet cistern. Don't flush the toilet for at least one hour. If the food colouring shows up in the toilet bowl after an hour, then you've got a leak.
We recommend that you get a licensed plumber to fix any leaks. Plumbers know which seals and washers are right for different toilets.
However if you are a handyman, take the parts of the toilet that need replacing to your local hardware store or plumbing retail outlet. The staff there will help you choose the correct replacement parts. Remember to repeat the food colouring test to make sure you have fixed the leak
Showers have become more popular in the last 30 years, from less than 20% of homes owning a shower in the 1970s to about 85% ownership today. Nowadays, showers use around 12% of the water used in the household. By being water efficient in the shower you can save money not only on your water bill, but on your energy bill too, whilst protecting the environment.
The volume of water used in the shower
A worrying trend is the growth of power showers. These can easily use more water than a bath. Water use in showers can be reduced very easily without conflicting with your shower experience.
- Aerated showerheads reduce the amount of water in the flow, but maintain pressure by mixing air in with the water. Just like a normal showerhead, they produce a steady, even spray.
- Low flow showerheads reduce the amount of water that is used, whilst still giving you the full feel of a normal shower.
- By replacing your showerhead with a more water efficient model it is possible to reduce your water consumption by more than half, whilst still enjoying a great shower.
The duration of the shower
Average times spent in a shower vary a lot and with limited research available the trend for longer showers seems to be increasing.
- A shower timer shows how much time you have spent in the shower, and can help you save water. When the sand empties from the top, turn off the flow. If everyone used a shower timer, we would save enough water to supply one million homes every day.
- In Australia, which has been suffering a severe drought for the last four years, showering accounts for 30% of water use in the home and shower timers are set for four minutes and have dramatically raised awareness of water conservation.
The future of showers
In the future we may see the development of water efficient features on showers. For example,
- showers may allow you to enjoy a luxury power shower experience whilst saving the water which is usually wasted while waiting for the water to come through hot.
- showers may have recycling features to recycle the water you use whilst showering.
- showers may also have on-off levers to make it easy to restrict the flow while you're soaping up, then allow the water to come through full force when you want to rinse off.
The kitchen tap and dishwasher account for about 8-14% of water used in the home, so there exists a huge opportunity here to reduce water wastage.
Kitchen taps vary tremendously in flow volume, from 2-25 litres per minute, and behaviours such as how much you twist the tap and for how long you leave it on influence how much water is used when you wash up.
For example, washing up under a running tap can use dozens of litres of water, but if you use a washing up bowl or plug-up your sink then you can reduce water wastage by 50 percent or more!
A common misconception is that dishwashers use more water; in fact, these machines can be water savers – if used wisely. In the 1970s, dishwashers used as much as 50 litres per cycle, but modern models can use as little as 10 litres – sometimes even less than washing up by hand.
Quick tips to reduce water wastage in the kitchen
- Avoid installing a waste macerator in your kitchen sink because these require lots of water to operate properly. Instead, dispose of food waste in a compost pile or wormery. If you don’t have a garden, ask a neighbour with a garden/allotment if they would be interested in starting a compost heap with you, contact your local council to find out if there are community composting schemes, or start a wormery in your kitchen.
- Using a dishwasher can use less water than washing up by hand, but only if your model is efficient and only if you use the machine properly:
- Make sure to use a full load every time. Buy a dishwasher with a capacity that is suitable to your household size. If you live alone, a nine place-setting machine should be sufficient, but if you have a large family you may want to buy a twelve place-setting model.
- Experiment with the different settings on your dishwasher. Many modern machines offer ‘Eco’ or ‘Economy’ settings that use less water and energy while providing the same quality wash as the normal setting. Check your user manual for water consumption information or, if the information is not provided, contact the manufacturer.
- Avoid pre-rinsing. With many modern dishwashers and detergents tablets, you no longer have to pre-rinse your dishes before loading them into the machine – simply scrape off the leftovers into your rubbish bin or compost heap, and then place in your machine.
Choosing a water efficient dishwasher
Unfortunately, many manufacturers, suppliers and retailers do not provide information about the water efficiency of their models, so you may have to put in a little effort in order to find out. Make sure to ask for this information or else manufacturers and retailers will continue to not supply it.
To figure out the water efficiency of a dishwashing machine, simply divide the model’s water consumption (in litres per standard cycle) by its capacity (in place settings). You can find water consumption information on the EU Energy Label that is affixed to all models.
Washing machines used to use as much water per wash as a person now uses in an entire day - up to 150 litres!
Advances in technology over the past 20 years, however, have succeeded in reducing the average water consumption to about 50 litres per wash - still quite a bit of water! Clothes washing now accounts for about 15 percent of the water that we use on our homes, so by reducing wastage in this area we can make significant water savings.
Washing machines vary tremendously in how much water they use per wash: when adjusted for capacity, some use as much as 20 litres per kilogram while others as little as 6 litres per kilogram! Therefore, when buying a new washing machine it is important to make sure that the model is water efficient.
So if you are thinking about buying a new washing machine, you might want to refer to our rankings for some tips on identifying water efficient models.
With any model, total water consumption will depend on how you use the machine. In order to minimise water and energy waste, follow these quick tips:
Quick tips to reduce water wastage from clothes washing
- When replacing your old washing machine, make sure to buy a water efficient model.
- When using your washing machine, make sure to use a full load every time. Surveys have shown that a typical load of laundry is usually much less than the maximum capacity of the model, so make sure to stuff in a couple of shirts with your next load. If you need to do a wash but don't have a full load, use the half load feature on your machine. Remember, though, that some half loads will use almost as much water as a full load, and that two half loads will use more water and energy than one full load. If you're purchasing a new machine, choose a model with a capacity that is appropriate for your situation. If you live alone, you're most likely to not need a model that can wash 10kgs of clothing.
- Unfortunately, many manufacturers, suppliers and retailers do not provide information about the water efficiency of their models, so you may have to put in a little effort in order to find out. Make sure to ask about water or manufacturers and retailers will continue to not provide them.
- To figure out the water efficiency of a clothes washing machine, simply divide the model’s water consumption (in litres per standard cycle) by its capacity (in kilograms). You can find water consumption information on the EU Energy Label that is affixed to all models.
- The best models will have a water efficiency of less than 7.50 litres per kilogram, while the very worst can exceed 20 litres per kilogram.
- Aside from water efficiency, price and colour will also be important factors to consider. In addition, almost all models on the market are now A-rated for energy, and many models are also A-rated on Spin and on Wash. The best of the best will have been awarded the Energy Saving Recommended Label by the Energy Saving Trust.
Drinking water is one area where you should definitely not cut back on your usage.
UK tap water is amongst the world’s finest and a few glasses a day is excellent for health and hydration.
But there are a few ways where you can cut waste whilst enjoying the great taste:
- Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste more than 10 litres a day! Put a bottle of tap water in the fridge so you have cold fresh water whenever you want it.
- Pour any left over glasses of water onto your houseplants
- Fill the kettle with only as much as you need, not to the brim. This saves you energy as well as water!
- Use a lid on your saucepans: they boil quicker, you don’t have to put in so much water and the food tastes fresher - but be careful they don’t boil over.
Don’t stress too much over saving water in the kitchen – water for cooking and drinking is not waste and health, enjoyment and good hydration should come before water efficiency!