Less than 1% of all the water on Earth is available for human use. Which is why, from our water butts to our washing machine cleaner, it is vital we understand how to make our homes and gardens as water-efficient as possible. Because reducing your water use doesn’t have to mean resorting to weekly showers and drought-like living conditions. Small changes can have a big impact, and it’s time that we all face up to the reality of global warming and finite water supplies. Read on for ten simple good living tips to help you conserve water and start making a difference today.
In the home
1. Turn off the tap
Simply turning the tap off when you brush your teeth can save six litres of water per minute, but there are also a number of water-efficient fixtures and systems that will help save water when the tap is on. Look out for ‘low flow’ fixtures and fittings in your local bathroom or home DIY store.
2. Make the most of your dishwasher and washing machine
The kitchen tap and dishwasher accounts for 8 – 14% of water used in the home, with another 15% used in washing our clothes alone. By using a dishwasher you will use less water than washing up by hand, but only if your model is efficient – and only if you use the machine properly. Always use full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher or adjust water levels to match the size of the load. Regular maintenance checks will help to keep your washing machine cleaner and free from limescale build-up, and it will help to prolong the life of your (energy efficient!) machine. Because by keeping your washing machine cleaner, your clothes will stay cleaner too – that means less washing!
3. Install a water meter
Water meters are not only the fairest way to pay (the customer only paying for the water they actually use), but are a brilliant incentive to use water wisely and waste less.
4. Check for leaks
Household leaks account for nearly 1 trillion gallons of wasted water every year, so use your water metre to check for any leaky faucets. Check your metre before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used – if the reading has changed, you know there is a hidden leak!
5. Keep it cool
As with most things in life, preparation is key. Instead of running tap water and waiting for it to cool, keep your fridge stocked with jugs and re-filled water bottles for chilled water, without the waste.
In the garden
1. Water only when necessary
Did you know that more plants die from over-watering than from under-watering? One top tip for watering your pots, plants, and hanging baskets is to place one to three ice cubes on top of the soil (depending on the size of the plant), providing a steady supply of water without overflow.
2. Install a water butt
Harvest rainwater from your roof by installing a water butt to your drainpipe, ideally positioned so that it gives easy access to your garden. Use the water collected to water your plants, fill your pond, and even wash your car and windows.
3. Switch to a watering can
Water-hungry hosepipes can use up to a staggering 1000 litres of water per hour, so switch to a watering can, applying the water to the base of plant where it can soak down to the roots. Watering your plants in the cool of the evening or early morning will reduce evaporation and also save water.
4. Recycle your greywater
Greywater is gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. Recycled greywater can be used to water ornamental plants and house trees and, on average, people who redirect it to their gardens reduce their water meter by 30%.
5. Plant drought-resistant plants
From Mediterranean plants such as lavender, sage, rosemary, and thyme, to South American penstemons, diascias and dahlias – there are a number of drought-tolerant plants, which thanks to their deep root systems, will survive without regular dousings. Buddlejas, Geranium, and Californian Poppies are also popular choices, with many water-saving gardeners applying a mulch around the plant to reduce surface evaporation, keep the soil cool and weeds down.