There’s no doubt we’ve all become increasingly aware of our impact on the earth, right? This year, my resolution was to lead a simpler, more sustainable life. So, limit single-use plastic, shop local, reduce food waste and remember to think about the environmental impact of my actions, however small. Cue bars of soap over bottles of shampoo or shower gel, compostable food bin for the kitchen, trips to the local market armed with my own tupperware and tote bags, for starters.
But, one thing that I didn’t really think about (and I’d bet I’m not alone), is how much water I use. Whether I’m at home or in the office (although, at the time of writing, it’s week two of Covid-19 social distancing, so my home is now also my office), the amount of water use doesn’t really cross my mind – aside from turning the tap off when I’m brushing my teeth and not overfilling the kettle. Even though I know there is a lot more to it.
How much water I use – or how much we all use – is important. The Energy Saving Trust says that the average UK household uses around 330 litres per day and Waterwise suggests 85% of us aren’t sure how much we actually use.
Another fact: according to Waterwise, around 30% of water used in an average UK household is through flushing the loo. So if you’re at home, like I am right now, that may even rise.
Now for the good news… a few simple steps can significantly help you reduce how much of the stuff goes down the drain and is wasted.
I spoke to journalist Ysanne Brooks about how much water we use and she had some sound advice. She said: “If you’re planning a bathroom, invest in products that are made to use less water but have been created with both good design and user experience in mind.”
Read on for Ysanne’s guide on how our choices could make our spaces more environmentally friendly and which products could help you save how much water you use…
Look at your loo
A single rinse from a WC manufactured or fitted before EU regulations reducing flush levels were implemented in 2001 could use as much as 14 litres each time. What?! However, recently there have been significant changes made – the new rules say a WC can use e maximum of 6 litres – and the introduction of dual flush means less water is needed to fill the cistern, so the amount you use each time you flush is reduced.
Basically, the smaller button on your flush, uses less water, while the larger button uses more. This usually ranges from 4 to 6 litres, but some of the latest WCs even go as low as a range between 2.5 and 4 litres. A litre or so saved each time might not sound a lot, but over time it adds up.
Consider, too, investing in a rimless design, as they are created to get more flushing power out of less water – not to mention they also have another bonus: they’re easier to clean.
Save water with your shower
I always thought that how much water I use would be relatively low because I favour a quick shower once a day over a long soak in the bath. But, you can make a shower even more eco-friendly. Look for shower heads fitted with aerators which use less water without losing the feeling of a good rinse – they include a device within the shower itself that mixes in air. This allows you to save a considerable amount, going from around 15 litres a minute down to between eight and nine. Do bear in mind that if you have multiple long showers a day, this could, in fact, equal more water wastage, so can you reduce your showering habits at all?
Generally speaking, how much water you use will depend on both your boiler system, as its pressure will affect how powerful your shower is – the higher your set-up’s pressure, the higher the flow rate and the more water will be pushed through per minute – as well as the size of your showerhead. A bigger design, like a rainfall shower, will dispense more water per minute than a small hand-held one, as an example.
Other ideas include pulsating showerheads, which discreetly turn the flow on and off 30 times per second saving water every time it is stopped, plus models that can be switched off as you’re soaping or washing your hair and then automatically start again – at the same temperature – once you’re done. Look out for showers with timer functions or thermostatic controls – some of the most innovative can be controlled remotely or set up to suit the preferences of multiple family members.
What about taps?
In the same way many showerheads now come with aerators, you can buy taps using the same technology. Often found in public bathrooms, have you thought about including taps with infrared technology at home? These feature sensors on top to turn the tap on and off again, which means you only use as much water as you need. Plus a sensor design is ideal for bathrooms used by small children or elderly relatives, for whom it may be a bit tricker to turn standard taps on and off. Safe too – bonus.
And the basin…
You may have noticed that basins, in general, have gotten smaller and shallower – this is because mixer taps mean we no longer have to fill them to get water that’s at the ideal temperature. However, these smaller designs, and those with a lower profile, will hold enough water for shaving, for instance, but will also reduce how much is wasted.
Be savvy with your bath
Love a soak? Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to stop. If you crave a nice relaxing soak at the end of the day, there are still ways to minimise your water use. While a standard bath takes around 190 litres to fill, you can buy some that are shallower and hold around 130 litres – that’s a considerable saving without damaging your enjoyment (you’re welcome). If you’re buying a new bath, look out for designs that have no integral overflow. This allows you to place it yourself, and situating it slightly lower than usual means the water level won’t be so high – the result a shallower bath that uses less water.
Thermostatic bath fillers will also help reduce waste, particularly if you’re completing other tasks while waiting for the tub to be ready. These taps allow you to preselect the ideal temperature, so you don’t have to let the water run-through or keep checking it (or realise that you’ve put too much hot in so have to drain some and add cold to make it the right temperature – not good, sorry).
If you want to know how it works, here you go:
An element inside the mixing valve expands and contracts in response to temperature and pressure changes. If it senses an increase in the hot water – if someone else is running the cold tap for instance – the mixing element increases in size to allow a side valve to open, which will then enable some more cold water to pass through to compensate for the change in heat, keeping the temperature constant. The reverse happens if it senses an increase in cold water. And if for some reason your cold fails altogether, the mixing valve will block hot water completely to prevent accidental scalding.
I read lots of useful facts on The Energy Saving Trust’s site while researching this piece, so do have a look if you’re serious about reducing the amount of water you use. I’ll be making sure I fill the dishwasher and washing machine each time to reduce how much water I use and there’s a leaky tap downstairs which needs some urgent attention.
Featured image: SmarTap from Victoria Plum, is a smart showering system that integrates seamlessly with a wide range of smart home helpers, including Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. It allows you to customise and control every aspect of your shower experience, including duration and temperature or – for a bath – how full you’d like the tub to be.