How can we save water now to help protect future supplies?
The UK heatwave has returned and extreme weather patterns are predicted to stay as we experience the impacts of climate change. So what can we do to save water now and protect future supplies?
Getting into better habits now in how we use water for different household tasks, and using less of it, can have a hugely positive impact for the future of this precious resource.
Recycling water is sustainable and saves money
Moving towards recycling water is a sustainable habit that helps conserve water and save us money. From collecting your washing up water in a tub to washing vegetables and putting it on the garden, saves you from using fresh drinking water on herb gardens and flower beds.
This type of recycling of household wastewater from the sinks, showers and washing machines- (but not toilet water) - is a safe recycling method which could become more common in the future.
Fill 450 water butts from your roof in a year
Many people already use a water butt to collect rainwater for use on the garden, lawn and for washing their cars. The average roof collects about 85,000 litres (21,250 gallons) of rain in a year - this could fill 450 water butts with free water.
Future water consumption in homes will be metered
In the future, water consumption in homes will be metered, which will benefit the environment, as well as those who use their water wisely. Many water companies are currently trying to include the public in the management of their local water catchment and in their decision making.
Future-proof, water-saving tips for six areas around the home
Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth. This could save 12 litres (more than three gallons) per day if you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes.
When shaving, use a plug in the basin rather than letting the tap run.
Avoid putting excess tissues, nappies, tampons, make-up or baby wipes, cigarette butts, and other waste into the toilet. Sewers are not designed to handle these kinds of waste which can impact on water quality.
Take a shower instead of a bath. A five-minute shower (not a power shower) will use two-thirds less water than a bath. Try to beat the clock by using a shower-timer that sticks onto your shower wall, or play a long song that you like (keep your music player somewhere safe and out of the way of the water though).
Use a low-flush option on a toilet if it’s available.
Many people wash cars and water gardens with quality drinking water from the taps. Buy a water butt to collect rainwater for use on the garden, lawn and washing your car.
If you water your lawn or plants, do so at the beginning or end of the day to reduce evaporation (early morning is best).
Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. A taller lawn shades roots and holds soil moisture better than if it is closely clipped.
Join a river group to spot pollution and invasive non-native species, and take part in practical clean-up days
Hand-wash small batches of dishes: fill a tub with soapy water and turn off the tap while scrubbing.
When using a dishwasher scrape dishes before putting them in, but do not rinse. Only run the dishwasher when full to increase efficiency.
Chill your own drinking water. Instead of letting the tap run cold, gather this water and enjoy a cold drink of water at any time.
Fixing dripping taps could save as much as 20 litres (five gallons) of water a day.
Avoid buying bottled water where you can by getting yourself a refillable bottle. It takes three-times the amount of water to make a new plastic bottle than to fill it. Plus, single-use plastic bottles are polluting our planet in so many ways.
Wash vegetables by soaking in a bowl and using a vegetable brush instead of running the tap – then you can use this to water your garden.
Use kitchen, bathroom, and other cleaning products that will not harm the environment, such as phosphate-free detergents and paraben- and phthalate-free shampoos and cosmetics.
Phosphates have already been banned from laundry detergents in the United States and Europe to reduce negative effects on fresh water quality and ecosystems.
Use plain soap and water for removing germs and avoid antibacterial soaps and other products containing triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that can build up in the environment and is toxic to aquatic life.
Photos: iStock/schulzie; iStock/ThamKC; iStock/Agathe Bernard
At Earthwatch Dr Wim Clymans manages the citizen science programmes, including FreshWater Watch focusing on water quality degradation in freshwater ecosystems around the world.