The current heat wave has brought water conservation back into the headlines.
Climate Change predictions tell us that Ireland is expected to experience drier summer months, which could see heat waves and therefore water shortages becoming a more regular feature of Ireland’s climate. The onus is now on us all to understand what our Water Footprint is and what kind of actions we can take to reduce our water use.
What is a Water Footprint?
While the average Irish person visibly uses around 150 litres of treated water per day, our secret water footprint is much higher. If we take into consideration all of the water used in production, manufacturing and transport; the average Irish person actually consumes 3,600 litres per day (The Institute of International and European Affairs, 2013)! 3% of this is used at home for drinking and washing, but a whopping 97% is embodied in agriculture and industrial products and services. Out of the food we eat, the most water is used in producing meat and other animal products, but also cereals, sugars, fruit and vegetables. 72% of the total Irish water footprint can be found abroad (i.e. goods imported).
A cup of tea contains 35 hidden litres in the growing, harvesting, cleaning, drying, producing and transporting, but coffee is the thirstiest requiring a whopping 140 litres per cup! A sliced pan of bread is water intensive with over 1,200 litres in it’s water footprint while a cotton t-shirt requires a massive 2,500 litres!
Top Water Saving Tips!
There are so many things that you can do to use less water! Here are some top tips to help reduce water use. Rethink what you think you know! The more people who rethink their action on water, the more sustainable our society will become.
Our water is precious so lets conserve it.
Turn your nose up at that hose!
Why waste hundreds of litres of water using a hose that soaks everything in sight and doesn’t even give your garden what it wants?! Using a watering can is much more efficient and it also helps you spot things in your garden you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The watering can allows you to target the roots of your plants and decreases the rate of evaporation from the leaves. Always try to water your garden in the early morning or late evening and use rainwater where possible – plants don’t like the high levels of chlorine in treated water.
Tap that rainwater!
Build or buy a rainwater butt – thankfully they are becoming popular and can be found in most garden and hardware stores. Most designs can be easily attached to an external gutter or drainpipe, collecting 25-90% of the rainwater that falls on the roof of your property which can then be used for watering your garden / washing your car.
Tackle that trickle
- A tap dripping at one drop per second can waste 1,550 litres of water per year
- A leaking toilet can use up to 45,000 litres of water in a week
- Leaks can cause secondary problems like dampness
Get a plumber to fix leaks or get a book and some tools and go for the DIY approach.
Go with the flow
Almost 33% of water that comes into your home leaves via the toilet. This means 33% of all the expensive water treatment getting it up to drinkable quality before it gets to your house is not needed. In addition to this when the water leaves via the toilet it is treated as foul using many more chemicals and energy even if that particular flush was just a piece of tissue.
- Never dispose of tissues and cotton wool down the toilet. As well as being wasteful of treated water they can clog the pipes.
- Do you need to flush the toilet after every pee? Maybe at bedtime or before going out every one in the house could make a ‘toilet stop’ and just flush once.
- If you need to buy a new toilet get one with a dual flush.
An average household will save 17,250 litres of water a year by halving the number of flushes.
Tanks a lot
The average toilet tank holds about 9 litres of water. This much water leaves your house every time you flush the toilet.
Take a 1 litre plastic bottle or 2 half-litre bottles. Remove the labels and fill the bottles with water. Place the bottles into the toilet tank taking care that they will not interfere with the toilet mechanism. Now every flush will use 1 litre less water. Wine bottles work well but they are only 0.75 l. Alternatively, you can use a large stone. If you don’t have room for the above fit a special ‘Save a flush bag’ which will go into any toilet even one that already has a dual flush.
This action will save 1 litre per flush, that’s about 3,500 litres per year
Scrub a dub dub
- Washing dishes with the tap running can use 100 litres of treated water. This costs even more money if it has been heated. Filling the washing up bowl you might use only 9 litres per day.
- Dishwashers use between 20-55 litres per load.
- Washing machines use between 70-120 litres per load.
- Do small amounts of dishes by hand and always use a washing up bowl.
- Never pre rinse dishes for the dishwasher under running water
- Make sure the dishwasher or washing machine is full before using.
- Does that clothing really need washing? Sometimes a damp cloth will do the job. By only washing clothes when needed, they will keep their new look longer.
By using the dishwasher or washing machine 1 time less each week you could save over 7,500 litres of water each year plus energy on your electricity bill and wear tear on the machine.
Facin the basin
Letting the tap run whilst you brush your teeth for 3 minutes in the morning and three minutes at night can waste between 50 and 130 litres of water per day, that’s 350- 910 litres per week or 47,500 litres a year! Shaving can use another 50 litres every time.
- When washing, run the water at low force to wet your skin and soap. Turn off the water whilst you wash and turn it back on to rinse. Or fill the basin.
- Run the tap at low force to wet your toothbrush and turn the tap off whilst you clean you teeth. Fill a glass to rinse you mouth.
- Run the tap at low pressure whilst shaving or fill the basin.
The above actions can easily reduce your washbasin water use by 85% and could save 50 litres per day. That’s over 1,800 litres per year with a few simple changes.
A bath can use 80 litres of water, a four-minute shower uses between 40 and 60 litres.
- Take more showers and less baths
- Time the length of your shower and see if you can reduce it to 4 minutes or less.
- Do you really need a shower every day? Try having a wash instead sometimes.
The above actions will definitely save you money especially if you use electricity to heat your water.
All bottled up
On average we waste 100 cups of clean water every time we let the tap run waiting for the water to go cold. Running your tap for one minute can waste 22 litres of treated water. If you live in a town or city the chances are this water will be treated as sewage so that is a waste of energy to treat it twice as well as a waste of water.
Keep a plastic bottle full of water in the fridge. Although it takes some energy to cool the water this is much more efficient than letting the tap run.
If you have been running the tap like this for one minute a day then taking this action could save 3000-8000 litres of water per year. You really can make a huge difference from very small changes!