Five easy ways to use less water at home – not just in a drought

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With so much of the world suffering from drought, you might think your ability to help is minimal. But when you consider that the average person in the UK uses around 142 liters of water a day, it’s easy to see how small changes to your routine can add up.

More than half of the water extracted from rivers, streams and aquifers in the UK feeds into the public water supply. These abstractions, as they are called, worsen drought conditions by draining local waterways, depriving vegetation, fish and other aquatic animals of the water they need to survive droughts.

Filling children’s pools to cool off, taking several showers every day to stay clean, watering the garden to revive wilted plants – all these extra activities contribute to a sharp increase in public water use on hot, dry days. And these impacts can last for months, as freshwater systems need a lot of additional rain to recover from droughts.

If every person could reduce their water use during a drought, it would significantly benefit the natural world in its recovery. Here are five things you can do, starting today.

1. Less shower

Most of the water you use is in the shower. For every minute you are under the shower (depending on the power), about 10 liters of water are drained. Since most people shower for an average of seven minutes, half of their daily water use occurs first thing in the morning.

One hand testing the shower water while adjusting the faucet.

Turning off the shower while washing your hair or applying shower gel can help save water, as well as shorten the duration of your shower in general. Make sure you don’t switch to a bath – the average soaking tub uses about 80 liters of water.

2. Use rainwater in the garden

A green plastic barrel connected to a black drain pipe and it was in a garden.

A green plastic barrel connected to a black drain pipe and it was in a garden.

During a period of drought, the average gardener can use hundreds of gallons of water to keep their plants hydrated. Some people use a watering can (good), others may leave a sprinkler on all day (bad). Most use drinking water, which is a waste – plants are happy with rainwater.

Add a water butt that collects the rain that falls on your roof and use it for the garden. To learn how to install one, watch this.

3. Use the short discharge

Per flush, your toilet uses about 5 liters of water and up to 10 liters on older models. If available, use the short flush to significantly reduce the amount of wasted water.

4. Reduce car washing

If you need to wash your car, do it the old-fashioned way with a bucket and soap instead of washing it with a hose. The water contained in a bucket (about 30 liters) is significantly less than the average that flows through a hose (about 15 liters per minute). Better yet, avoid washing your car entirely during a drought.

5. Reuse water

If you’re washing vegetables, you can collect the water in a bowl over the sink and then give it to the plants in your house or outside. While waiting for the warm water to come out of the tap, use the cold water to fill the kettle. Turn off the faucet while soaping your hands with soap or brushing your teeth. While these are just small savings, they make a difference over time.

Inflatable pools are great for cooling off on the hottest days. A cleaning pump can filter the water and recycle it without you having to use more water to keep the pool clean.

A blue plastic pool in a garden with a white filter attached.

Save water, save money

All of these tips can significantly reduce water use and combat the effects of drought on the environment. They can also save money.

If you can renovate your home, it is worth installing a rainwater collection system that, combined with a pump, can flush toilets. In Belgium, for example, it is common practice to install such a system (effectively, a large underground water reservoir) in newly built houses.

Most people would struggle to afford these types of measures, and so drought-proof homes and communities should be part of the effort to adapt countries to the extreme weather expected in a rapidly warming world.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Niko Wanders receives funding from the Dutch Science Foundation, the European Union and National Geographic for his work on drought and climate change.

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