Not everyone associates water with energy, but energy is used to treat water, pump it to our homes and dispose of it afterwards. Moreover, lots of energy is used in our homes to heat our water.

Water tips:

  1. Fit a water meter to see how much water you’re using

  2. Reduce the quantity of water you use to wash your car

  3. Take (non-power) showers rather than baths

  4. Use full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher

  5. Repair leaks and don’t leave taps running

  6. Fit water-saving devices, e.g. in your toilet

  7. Collect and re-use your rainwater

  8. Water softeners

Take care not to spend any money saved in a way that inadvertently causes large emissions.

Southern Water has more water efficiency tips for your home and garden.

Overview

Of the drinking-quality tap water that gets piped to our homes, over half is used in washing (clothes, dishes and ourselves), 30% goes down the toilet and only 4% is actually drunk.

The first step in reducing your water consumption could be to measure it, and you can do this by getting a free water meter fitted. Read on for ideas about how you can use less water in your home and garden.

In these tips, we’ve just considered direct water usage, ie the water you use at home. However, huge quantities of water are used in producing the food we eat and manufacturing the goods we buy. In fact, it’s estimated that we are each responsible for using about 4000 litres of water a day, of which only 150 litres is used directly in our home. You may therefore want to try and cut down your indirect water usage as well. This article from The Independent newspaper has more information to get you started.

CO2 impact

The UK water industry generates the equivalent of over 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. Therefore, by using less water, we can reduce the UK’s overall emissions.

More importantly, roughly a further 35 million tonnes of emissions are generated in heating the water we use in our homes each year. That’s over 500 kg per person or about 5% of the total emissions per person [1].

Money aspects

In December 2016, Southern Water was charging £3.50 per cubic metre of water [2] supplied to a home with a water meter. They say that the average person uses 50 cubic metres of water a year, so cutting your water usage by one-quarter will save you about £43.75 a year on average. In addition, if you use less hot water, you are likely to save money on your gas and/or electricity bills.

Other benefits

Water is a precious resource, even in England, and especially in the south-east where it’s in relatively short supply - so we should use it wisely. However, we use almost 50% more water than 25 years ago, partly because we own and wash more cars, have more power washers, power showers and other water-hungry household appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines.

Water shortages don’t just affect us: they can also seriously harm our environment. Our water comes from rivers and groundwater so every drop we use has a direct effect on the environment. Fish, wetland birds and other wildlife that rely on ponds, rivers and streams struggle to survive when these dry up or run low. Sources of food and breeding sites for wildlife can be lost and fish can die through lack of oxygen.

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1. Fit a water meter to see how much water you’re using

If you don’t get metered bills, you could benefit financially from being charged for just the water you use instead of being charged based on the “rateable value” of your home. Your water company will normally fit a water meter to your property for free. You can contact Southern Water (which provides water to most of the Winchester District) by email or telephone (0845 270 0845).

Money aspects

Depending on how water-wise you are, you might experience more than a 50% drop in your bills. Southern Water can help you estimate how much you might save.

Other benefits

Using less water will help to conserve this precious resource, benefiting the environment and making water restrictions (such as hosepipe bans) less likely.

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2. Reduce the quantity of water you use to wash your car

A power washer is said to use 500 - 7,200 litres per hour while a hose pipe with the tap turned on full uses about 350 - 640 litres per hour so use a bucket of water to clean your car and a second bucket to rinse it. Fitting a spray hand piece, the sort that turns off when you let go, can also save water.

Money aspects

If you wash your car every month, using a bucket instead of a power washer would save you up to 17,000 litres and about £60 a year if you have a water meter.

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3. Take (non-power) showers rather than baths

Small changes in behaviour can make big differences: a bath uses around 80 litres of water whereas non-power showers use an average of only 30 litres. However, a power shower can use more water than a bath in less than 5 minutes.

Take quick non-power showers and turn the temperature down a little if you can.

Investigate using a low-flow showerhead that aerates the water and so reduces the volume of water used.

CO2 impact

If you switch from a bath to a shower, and your water is heated by gas, you could save about 0.4 kg of carbon dioxide emissions each time [3]. If your household does that once a day, that’s a saving of about 150 kg each year. Savings are likely to be about two and a half times as much if your water is heated by electricity [4].

Money aspects

If you switch from a bath to a shower, you could save 50 litres of water each time. If your household does that once a day, it could save over 18 cubic metres (15% of total consumption for a typical household) of water a year or about £63 if your water is metered.

Heating water requires energy, so reducing your hot water usage will also reduce your gas or electricity bills. For example, if your water is heated by gas, you might save a further £25 or so a year [5]. Savings are likely to be about three times as much if your water is heated by electricity [6].

Other benefits

Keeping your showers short will save you time, as well as saving water and energy.

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4. Use full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher

Should you use a dishwasher or is it better to wash up by hand? Research in Germany, paid for by a number of companies that manufacture dishwashers or dishwasher products, has suggested that dishwashers typically use less water than washing up by hand. The average household will do two or three hand washes a day using 60 litres of water, while a new dishwasher typically uses 12 litres per wash. However, it does depend on how efficiently you wash up - with care, much less water can be used by hand! Either handwash your dishes carefully in a bowl (rather than under a running tap or in the sink) or wait until you have a full load for the dishwasher (and don’t pre-wash them first).

Similarly, only use your washing machine when it is full. Don’t use the half-load setting on either your dishwasher or your washing machine as it is rarely economical with either water or energy.

When you buy a new dishwasher or washing machine, choose one which is at least A rated as it will be more water efficient as well as saving energy. By law, all machines should display an energy label, so you can compare their water and energy consumptions. Alternatively you could decide to wash up by hand in future.

CO2 impact

A typical UK washing machine is used about 270 times a year and uses about 1 kWh of electricity each time [7]. Reducing the number of washes by 25% will reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by about 40 kg [8]. on average. To reduce your emissions further, select a lower temperature wash and don’t use a tumble-dryer afterwards.

A typical UK dishwasher is used about 250 times a year and uses about 1.2 kWh of electricity each time [9]. Reducing the number of loads by 25% will reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by about 45 kg on average.

Money aspects

Using your washing machine 25% less often might save you about £14 per year on your (metered) water bills and £8 per year on your electricity bills [10].

Using your dishwasher 25% less often might save you about £3.50 per year on your (metered) water bills and £9 per year on your electricity bills [11].

Other benefits

Using a dishwasher will save you time, as will using your dishwasher and washing machine less often.

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5. Repair leaks and don’t leave taps running

Dripping taps can waste up to 4 litres of water a day, so turn taps off fully and replace worn tap washers. Keep an eye out for minor leaks and, if you find one, get it repaired promptly.

In the kitchen, use a bowl rather than a running tap to wash fruit and veg and do the washing-up. The leftover water can be used for watering your plants.

Try not to leave the tap running while you brush your teeth, shave or wash your hands, as this can waste up to 5 litres of water per minute.

Keep a bottle or jug of tap water in the fridge instead of running taps until the water runs cold.

Money aspects

These tips cost little or nothing to implement, but will save you money if your water is metered.

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6. Fit water-saving devices, e.g. in your toilet

Water saving taps and attachments, and dual flushes for toilets, are available from all good DIY and plumbing supply stores, or contact Waterwise for more information about products and suppliers.

Each toilet flush can use up to 9 litres of drinking quality water, so avoid unnecessary flushes. Consider fitting a non-siphon dual flush to your toilet: it increases the water pressure of each flush and cuts the water consumption by half but needs regular checking to prevent waste from leaks. Alternatively, replace your existing siphon system with a Dudley Duoflush siphon that can cut water usage by one-third but also needs regular checking.

Consider fitting a spray cartridge to taps mainly used for hand washing. See our list of water saving gadgets.

Consider fitting a spray cartridge to taps mainly used for hand washing. See our list of water saving gadgets.

Money aspects

Fitting a dual-flush could save up to 20% of your total water bill and pay for itself in around a year [12].

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7. Collect and re-use your rainwater

Rainwater harvesting can be as simple as collecting rainwater in a water butt for use in your garden. Or it can involve more complicated systems that, for example, collect and store rainwater from your gutters for later use in toilets, or recycle used “greywater” for flushing toilets and washing machine use. For more information, visit the Waterwise website.

Learn about sustainable water and sewage systems by attending a Low Impact Living Initiative course covering rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and composting toilets.

Money aspects

Water butts are available from garden centres or online from companies such as waterbuttsdirect, for about £25 - £50. Greywater systems will generally cost more to implement, but will save you more in the long term.

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8. Water softeners

A water softener can save energy if you live in a hard water area in two ways.

1. By increasing the efficiency of your boiler and hot water tank coil and

2. By reducing your use of soaps, detergents, descalers and hand creams. Most sorts use the flow of water through them for power.

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If you would like to give feedback on this site, or have any suggestions for improvement, please contact us. We are particularly keen to hear about other organisations and initiatives in and around Winchester which can help people reduce their carbon footprint.

The information on this page is provided in good faith and reflects our understanding of the underlying science and technology at the time of writing, but we cannot guarantee that it is wholly accurate. All figures for costs, savings and other matters are estimates: the actual figures will depend on your particular circumstances and may differ (perhaps significantly) from those shown. Although we have included links to various organisations, we are not recommending these organisations: it is your responsibility to check that they are suitable for your needs. Nonetheless, if you experience difficulties with any of the links or organisations, or believe that any of the information presented here is inaccurate, please let us know and we will update this page if we consider it necessary.

  • [1] 35 million tonnes divided by 62 million people is 0.565 tonnes (565 kg) each. Average UK emissions are 12.5 tonnes per person per year - “How to live a low-carbon life” by Chris Goodall (Earthscan, 2007)

  • [2] For the year from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017, Southern Water is charging 125p for the water supply plus 225p for the sewerage service. They assume 92.5% of water is returned to the sewer, giving a total charge of 350p per cubic metre of water.

  • [3] Assumes reduction of 50 litres of hot water per day for your household. Calculations based on “How to live a low-carbon life” by Chris Goodall, page 118 (Earthscan, 2007). Assumes 75% efficient boiler and CO2 emissions of 0.203 kg per kWh of gas used, and allows for heat loss from hot water tank and pipes.

  • [4] This is because generating 1 kWh of electricity causes about 3 times the emissions of generating 1 kWh of gas.

  • [5] Assumes same reduction of 50 litres of hot water per day for your household. Calculations based on “How to live a low-carbon life” by Chris Goodall, page 118 (Earthscan, 2007). Assumes 75% efficient boiler and marginal price of gas is 3.35p per kWh, and allows for heat loss from hot water tank and pipes.

  • [6] This is because 1 kWh of electricity costs more than 1 kWh of gas, currently (mid 2011) over three times as much.

  • [7] “How to live a low-carbon life” by Chris Goodall, page 139 (Earthscan, 2007)

  • [8] 25% x 270 x 1kWh is a saving of 67.5 kWh. On average, for every 1 kWh (or unit) of electricity you consume at home, 0.617 kg of CO2 is emitted at a power station

  • [9] “How to live a low-carbon life” by Chris Goodall, page 148 (Earthscan, 2007)

  • [10] Assuming each wash uses 75 litres of water and the marginal cost of electricity is 12p per kWh.

  • [11] Assuming each load uses 20 litres of water and the marginal cost of electricity is 12p per kWh.

  • [12] According to Southern Water, a typical person in the UK uses 17 cubic metres of water a year to flush toilets. Saving 50% of this saves 50% x 17 x £2.80 = £23.80 per person per year, roughly the cost of a dual flush mechanism.

  • [13] According to Southern Water, one water butt can hold enough rainwater to fill a watering can 25 times. Average rainfall in the South East can fill a water butt up to 450 times a year.

 

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