Tapping on the water problem

Two thirds of the Earth’s surface are water. However, only 2.5% of all the water available on Earth is fresh water – and two thirds are frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps.

It is easy to see that fresh water is a scarce commodity. And in a scenario where the world population is increasing, it is more urgent that everyone behaves sustainably, avoiding any form of waste and helping the planet.

In Europe, each person uses on average around 144 litres of fresh water every day in their homes, which is almost three times more than the established by the European Environment Agency for basic human needs, and enough to fill around 570 cups of water. So that means there’s incredible amounts of water being wasted in households.

Knowing the main sources of water waste involved, will make it easier for you to start saving.

  1. Toilets

Toilet illustration

A leaky toilet could be the equivalent of 200,000 litres of wasted water per year – you would need a tank the size of the living room to contain such a large volume. Older models can spend up to 15 litres on a single flush.

And since pressing the flush button is a move you make almost without thinking, know that there are too many times you flush without needing to. About 30% of the waste of water in a house is due to the number of times you flush too much. This waste can represent more than 120 litres per day. At the end of a year, it’s 29,000 1.5 liter bottles.

The best way to save on flushing is to use a dual flush system, for different situations. Whenever possible, use the flush that spends the least water. If you are not planning on changing the toilet in the short term, you can put a full bottle of water into the tank – reducing the amount of water that is flushed each time you press the magic button.

By reducing the capacity of your flushing toilet, you can save up to 600 litres per month - the equivalent of making 12 full washing machines.

  1. Washing Machine

Washing machine illustration

More recent washing machines are optimised for water and power saving. However, it is still possible to use them incorrectly and cause water waste.

If you don’t fill the machine to its full capacity you will be wasting water in vain. On the other hand, note that older machines can use up to 200 litres of water to wash a load of 5 kg of clothes – which is frightening compared to newer machines that use only 50 litres for the same load.

To reduce water waste through the washing machine, cut on the the frequency of washing, fill the machine to the limit advised by the manufacturer, avoid pre-washing when not absolutely necessary and, if possible, replace the old machine with a modern, more efficient one.

  1. Shower

Bathtub illustration

Showers, baths and personal hygiene account for 37% of all the water used in a household. And while necessary and indispensable, showers have an important role on water waste in your house. There are three reasons for this: too long showers, keeping the water running while lathering, and high-flow shower heads.

The first two are easy to go around, but the third one requires a small adaptation: from a high-flow to a low-flow shower head. A water-saving shower can help you save up to 11 litres per minute.

A bubble bath can waste 200 litres in one go. That is enough potable water for a person to drink 1,5L every day, for more than four months.

  1. Faucets

Faucet illustration

Even if your faucets aren’t leaky or dripping, they are still important water wasters in your home. The common faucet has an average flow of 6 litres per minute. Reducing this flow for, let’s say, half, will drastically cut on the amount of water wasted. How many times have you pictured yourself leaving faucets opened way too long, and of course, unnecessarily when brushing teeth, washing hands or showering? Something has to change.

In the kitchen, get to know that dish washers can dramatically reduce your water waste, but only if used correctly. Newer models use less than 15 litres per load. If you still would like to make it the old fashion way, try to just use two basins with water: one to soak and wash, and the other to rinse.

When washing fruits and vegetables, you can as well place a bowl in the sink to collect the water and use it later, for instance, in the bathroom.

Doing the dishes manually can use 50 litres of water for a small load. For a big load, it can take up to 150 litres per wash.

  1. Water Leaks

Broken pipe illustration

A dripping faucet during the day or a leaking flush mechanism in your toilet or a broken pipe can lead to significant water waste.

On average, a drip can sum up to 2,000 litres in a month, which are more than enough to fill 8,400 cups of water! The same way, a small trickle can represent a 10.000 or 100.000 litre loss every month.

There’s also the case of an invisible water leak, in the pipes, for example. If inside a house you can never tell if there is a leak, in a garden, you can spend an eternity without realizing that there is some water escaping.

How to know if there’s a leak?

Check your meter when no water is being used by your household members or appliances. If the red pointer moves, you probably have found a water leak.

Every little change we make, is another step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Check your current water footprint and define strategies to reduce it!