If you live in the UK, water may seem abundant. But those of us wanting to live a more sustainable life should be looking at ways we can save water, as treating wastewater is a very energy-intensive process of filtration, chemical treatment and pumping – usually from miles away. With a huge amount of treated, drinkable water going down the toilet (a third of our water use goes towards flushing loos), we should all be looking at how we can reduce our water consumption.
If, like us, you live in the South East of England, you may be aware that this region is particularly affected by water scarcity. And this year’s long, hot summer has only drawn more attention to the pressure on our local water sources.
So how can we help? Well, there are many ways we can reduce water consumption, starting with simple stuff we tell our toddlers (turn off the tap while brushing your teeth) to the more sophisticated (rainwater and greywater harvesting systems). This blog post is going to concentrate on some simple steps you can take to use less water in your daily life.
How to save water: our top tips
1. Taps off
Running a tap can waste a whopping nine litres of water a minute, so fill your sink for washing fruit and veg or doing the dishes, and turn it off while you’re brushing your teeth. Taking quicker showers and showering over bathing will also cut down your water consumption considerably.
Oh, and if you like to drink cold water, fill a large jug and put it the fridge rather than waiting for the water to run cold every time you want a glass.
2. New tech
Gadgets like cistern displacement devices in your toilet and low-flow taps and shower heads, as well as modern white goods like dishwashers and washing machines, can seriously reduce water consumption. Waiting until you have a full load before using your washing machine or your dishwasher will also save water and energy.
And while technology is all well and good, fixing a dripping tap and keeping an eye out for leaks will also help. Installing a water meter can also make you more aware of your water use.
3. Collect your own
Installing a water butt to your drain pipe is a low cost and low effort way to make the most of the rain that we (usually) have in abundance in the UK. You can use this to water your plants and lawn and wash your car and windows. Your plants will prefer the rainwater anyway, and if you have a large garden it will dramatically cut the amount of treated water you use.
While we’re on the subject of plants, using a watering can rather than a hose can save water – according to Ofwat, hoses and sprinkler systems use 500 - 1000 litres of water an hour.
This collected rainwater will have traces of icky stuff like bird poop and bacteria, and algae may grow in it if the water is left stagnant for a while, so don't forget, no drinking!
4. Rainwater harvesting systems
While a water butt will do for outside use, the next stage in rainwater harvesting is installing a system which will filter the water adequately to use for any outside taps, to flush toilets and potentially for use in a washing machine.
Bonus: as rainwater hasn't been treated, it's softer, meaning less detergent required and more money saved for you!
Most rainwater harvesting systems will be fitted on your roof, with an underground tank to store the water. Because of this, these systems are best installed on a new build or when you’re undertaking a major renovation project. When choosing a rainwater harvesting system, you first need to consider local average rainfall, the size of your roof or catchment area, and how much water you will need. This will determine the best type of system for you.
There are a few different systems on the market, from simple sand filtration to high-tech UV treatment, so talk to a sustainable architect or do some research on the different companies to make sure you make the right choice for your project.
So there you have it, Koru's top tips on how to save water, from easy-peasy to a more considerable effort.
Do you have any top tips for saving water? Let us know! @KoruArchitects