Domestic water supplies can be split into two categories – metered and unmetered. Utility companies are increasingly keen to get customers onto water meters as it is seen as a useful way of reducing water usage as with an unmetered supply there is no incentive for the consumer to conserve water. All new build domestic properties will have a water meter fitted to their supply.
With a metered supply, you are charged for the water you use plus a standing charge for the upkeep of the meter and the cost of readings. You will also pay waste water charges and these will be a set percentage of the water used – this will be an estimate based on the percentage of the water that the utility company thinks will be returned to the system as waste.
With an unmetered supply your water and waste charges are based on the rateable value of your home, irrespective of the amount of water that is actually used by the occupants.
As you can see, with the unmetered installation there is nothing that you can do to directly reduce the amount you pay for your water. With a metered installation, both water and waste charges are based on the amount of water used, so by cutting your water usage you will see a direct reduction in your water bills.
Most utility companies will install a meter free of charge on request, and it would be in your interest to do this in certain situations, such as if you live alone or where the number of occupants is lower than the average for the size of property.
Published figures show that we are now using up to 70% more water than we were 30 years ago and demand is expected to continue to increase unless consumers start to follow water conservation tips. On average, each of us uses 1000 litres (1760 pints) of water per week and so saving a significant amount of water is easier than you may have thought – put simply it is about using only as much as you really need.
Whether your supply is metered or unmetered it is in everyone’s interest to conserve water since the cost of extra reservoirs and infrastructure will ultimately be added to every water bill, causing significant increases. It would also have an adverse impact on the environment.
Much of the water conservation advice is common sense and requires little effort to adopt. Below you will find a list of ways in which you can save water, and we would urge you to follow as many of them as possible to ensure that there continues to be sufficient to supply the UK without restrictions being imposed.
If you take a shower rather than a bath and you could save up to 60 litres of water. Ideally you should keep your shower to 5 minutes or less and use a standard shower rather than a power shower as these can use as much water as a bath due to their higher flow rates. If you do have a bath, only fill it as high as you actually need it. These tips will save water and will also save you money on your other utilities such as gas or electricity.
As much as a third of all of the water used in your home is flushed down the toilet and there are many ways to reduce the impact of this. Older toilets have larger capacity cisterns, up to 50% larger than modern, more efficient units. A modern cistern will hold approximately 6 litres of water whereas an older cistern would hold around 9 litres.
Most water companies will supply a water saving device (sometimes referred to as a ‘hippo’) free of charge on request and this can be placed into older (pre 2000) cisterns to reduce their capacities by around 1 litre. This should have no effect on the efficiency of the flush but represents an instant 10 – 15% saving on every single flush. If it becomes necessary to flush twice with the device fitted it should be removed.
If you are considering replacing your toilet then you should find that your replacement will have a smaller capacity cistern – you should not use water saving devices on these cisterns as it will adversely affect the performance of the toilet – they are already designed to use as little water as possible. Many new toilets are fitted with a dual flush giving you a choice of a light flush and a second, more powerful flush for solid waste – these are an excellent way of reducing the amount of water that is wasted and are worth looking out for if you are considering replacing your toilet.
When brushing your teeth it is advisable to use a glass of water to rinse your mouth rather than leaving the tap running. This would save an average of 3.5 litres of water each time, an average of 7 litres a day.
When you are washing your hands and face it is worth putting the plug in the basin rather than allowing the taps to run as this is extremely wasteful.
Wait until you have a full load before you use the washing machine or dishwasher if possible, or failing that, use the economy or half-load settings now present on most newer machines.
When you are looking to replace your washing machine or dishwasher, look for one with the ‘Eco’ label which has low water usage – an ‘eco’ dishwasher will use around 10 litres less than your old machine and and an ‘eco’ washing machine will use up to 30 litres less per wash. You will also save electricity as a result.
Washing up using a bowl will save around 5 litres per wash compared to a running tap. If you can wait until you have a full load then this is ideal.
The same amount can be saved by cleaning and preparing vegetables in a bowl full of water rather than under a running tap. Waste water from this can be used to water houseplants.
Kitchen waste disposal units use a lot of water and the vegetable peelings and other items that they are typically used to process can be used to great effect on domestic compost heaps. If you do not have a compost heap you could easily start one, or you could save waste and give it to a friend or relative who already has one. Almost any organic waste can be used in this way - eggshells for example are extremely beneficial to compost heaps and once rotted down sufficiently you will then have an excellent source of free compost for your garden.
Instead of running a tap until the water is cold in order to drink cold water, fill a jug with water and keep it in the fridge. This should be changed once a day to ensure that you always have a fresh supply. You can couple this with one of the proprietary water filter jugs that are widely available for this purpose.
When using a kettle, only boil as much water as is required. Apart from boiling more quickly, this will save electricity as well as water and may even make your kettle last longer.
Spinklers and hosepipes can use 1000 litres of water per hour, so it is little wonder that the use of these is of great concern during water shortages. One way to limit this is to fit a trigger type nozzle to the end of the hose to prevent water coming out when not being used – water will stop flowing as soon as the trigger is released rather than leaking out into the soil or drains.
If you wash your own car you should consider using a bucket rather than a hosepipe as this will save a lot of water. You can rinse the car with a watering can – just as effective as a hosepipe but using far less water.
It is important to ensure that leaking taps or pipes are fixed as soon as possible, as they can waste several litres of water per day in addition to potentially contributing to other problems with your property.