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Sustainable Water

Despite the perception that it rains all the time in the UK, as a country we are not water secure, and without making changes over the coming years and decades we will begin to see stress on the system. Some water that we use at home is unnecessarily excessively sanitised to meet drinking standards – like the water we use to flush the toilet.

How to make a change

In the home

  • Either reduce the length of your showers, or if possible, the frequency: if you have not been active all day then showering both in the morning and at night might be unnecessary.
  • Baths use more water than all but the longest of showers, so limit the number of baths you take weekly.
  • Flushing the loo is the second largest use of water in the home, behind only showering. Install a Cistern Displacement Device in the cistern to reduce water used per flush – available for FREE from most water suppliers.
  • Turn off the tap whilst shaving or brushing your teeth.
  • Wash dishes in a full bowl of water, rather than under a running tap, and only when you have a full load to wash.
  • Keep a water jug in the fridge, so that you don’t need to run the tap to cold each time you want a glass of water.
  • Wash vegetables in a bowl of water, rather than under a running tap.
  • Running the dishwasher can use less water than washing pots by hand, so if you have one then use this to your advantage, but only run when the dishwasher is as full as possible.
  • Only wash clothes when necessary. Although this is down to your personal preference only underwear and socks really need washing after every single use – this also prolongs the life of clothing.
  • If you wash your car often, try leaving it a little longer between washes, and use a bucket of water instead of running a hose.
  • Install a grey water system, which collects water from sinks, baths, and showers, processes this water and redirected to your toilets for flushing. This can reduce water use in the home by 50% but ensuring chemical balance of the system is correct and that it is managed properly is an ongoing job.
  • If you are struggling to pay for your water bill, check if you are eligible for reductions through the Severn Trent ‘Big Difference Scheme’.

In the garden

  • Install water butts to catch rainwater and use to water the garden during dry periods. Leaving buckets and other receptacles out to collect water when it rains can be used in the same way.
  • Reuse dishwater for watering plants – this is perfectly safe for plants if your washing up liquid does not contain bleach or boron, or if it has been used for washing uncooked meat. Just avoid watering plants you are planning on eating.
  • Apply ‘mulch’ to flower beds and borders, e.g., bark chipping, to reduce water loss and therefore limit the need for watering.
  • Choose native plant species which will tolerate local weather conditions without the need for excessive watering
  • If there are plants or areas of your garden that absolutely do need watering then use the following tips to water as efficiently as possible: Water plants infrequently but deeply to encourage root growth, during cooler parts of the day to reduce water lost to evaporation, and on calm days so that less water is carried off by the wind.

Embedded Water Use

  • Embedded water use refers to the water used over the lifecycle of everything we consume – from food to the goods, materials and energy we use. When we consider embedded water the footprint of an average person in the UK average increases from 150 litres to 3400 a day.
  • This means that the best way to reduce your water footprint is to actually focus on your ’embedded’ use, either by consuming less, or more sustainably.
  • Examples include replacing meat and dairy with plant-based alternatives (which use only a fraction of the water to produce), buying second-hand clothing, or using less energy in the home.
  • More information about these sustainable swaps can be found within their respective factsheets.

Example Actions

  • Reduce shower time by (x) minutes
  • Turn off the tap when brushing teeth
  • Apply mulch to flower beds

Useful Links

Severn Trent have a variety of resources on saving water. Most local water authorities will have free resources on their websites including information on saving water.

People currently struggling with the cost of living can seek up to 90% reduction on their water bill through Severn Trent’s Big Difference Scheme.

Waterwise are a non-profit organisation focused on reducing water consumption in the UK.

The Water Footprint Network are a network of organisations and individuals aimed at advancing fair and smart water use, through research and advice.

Friends of the Earth have a free guide on saving water for individuals.

Download an Action Plan so you can set your own goals!

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