Water is shaping up to be one of the most important issues for the future. While much of the developing world has to manage with 20 litres per person a day – a mere 4 buckets-worth – on average in the UK each one of us uses 155 litres. That’s nearly eight times as much and our thirst for water just keeps on growing; 30 years ago, the British average was then only a little over twice as much. We are not alone; in fact over the past half century, water use globally has tripled – increasing at an even faster rate than the world’s rising population.
The Usual Tips
You’re probably aware of most, if not all, of the usual tips already. Don’t run the water when you brush your teeth, have a shower rather than a bath, chill water in the fridge instead of waiting until the tap runs cold, don’t flush things away that could be binned instead and get a water butt for the garden – it’s all good advice to get you started. Water saving activities can also help cut down your energy bills – and your carbon footprint too. Those suggestions that you should only use the washing machine or dishwasher for a full load, or boil only the amount of water that you need can go a long way towards improving energy efficiency around the home as well as making a great contribution to water conservation.
Once your family has done all of those, however, what’s next? Here are five quick and simple tips to help you turn your kids’ water consciousness into water conservation.
Shower Time Fun
“Have a shower rather than a bath” – that seems a simple enough piece of advice, but is it? Well, that depends; it all comes down to time and flow! A bath may take 80 litres while five minutes under the shower will take a little less than half that amount – but luxuriate too long, enjoy a five-minute power shower, or simply run the water too fast and you can actually end up using more.
- Tip 1 – buy a shower timer; for less than a fiver, you can get one of these waterproof electronic timers which come in a range of styles, including colourful cartoon-ish ducks and frogs to appeal to younger children, and make sure no one stays too long.
- Tip 2 – fit a water saving shower head; with one of these adjustable spray heads, everyone can have the shower experience they want and still save water, however powerful the jet.
Flushed With Success
Apparently on average we each flush the loo 35 times a week, using around eight litres of water each time – a total that adds up to an astonishing two-thirds of most household’s water use! We all know that some things just have to be flushed away (and we’ll not go into that here) but they don’t always need quite so much water to be sent on their way.
Toilets fitted after 2001 have a volume of six litres, and this is the current minimum standard for a flush, so don’t be tempted to reduce it, but if yours dates back to before 1991, it will be pouring out nine litres or more.
- Tip 3 – get a Hippo; a heavy grade polythene bag that sits in the cistern, fills up with water and saves about three litres per flush. It has holes to stop the water going stagnant and can be fitted to most toilets, except push-button ones, though you’re best checking with a qualified plumber to make absolutely sure its suitable before you fit one.
- Tip 4 – add a water limiting device to the taps; cut water use by up to 70 per cent when it’s time to wash your hands. Simple!
Knowing About Your Flow
How much water do you use as a family? The chances are that even if you’re metered, you probably don’t know – and knowing what you use it on is almost certainly a mystery. If you want to save energy, you’re told to do an audit and monitor what you use; the same thing can be applied to water, and it can be a fun activity that allows kids to turn water detective.
- Tip 5 – keep a water diary; aim to make a comprehensive record of how you all use water – and roughly how much – over the course of a week. If the whole family keeps a diary, you can collect all the information together at the end and build a really detailed picture of your water demand. Knowing how you use water can be a powerful ally in helping you start to save it.
Water conservation brings a lot of benefits, both economically and environmentally, not least because lowering demand reduces the drain on rivers, lakes and other natural sources and helps saves energy at water treatment plants. As water metering continues to be rolled out across the country, it won’t be long before those advantages will make themselves felt at home too, as everyone starts to received bills based on what they actually use.
There’s also something a little uncomfortable, even down-right unethical, about wasting water when so much of the world’s population has no regular access to clean drinking water at all. It’s one of those occasions when charity really can begin at home – at the turn of a tap.