Water diary that revealed my family uses 800 litres on normal day…

The water diary that revealed my family uses 800 litres on a normal day… which is the same as four six-ton elephants: Mother-of-two Sarah Rainey was shocked by the amount of fluid her household gets through in 24 hours

Water, water everywhere . . . but not a drop falling from the sky. The recent record-breaking heatwave, combined with a lack of rainfall in many parts of the UK, has put us on the cusp of a national drought.

Experts met last week to discuss how to deal with the very dry conditions, and hosepipe bans will be introduced this week on the Isle of Wight and in parts of Hampshire.

Meanwhile, customers who have recently had water meters installed — supposedly a cost-saving device — have received shocking estimates for their predicted water use, with some complaining of bills that are set to double in the next six months.

This is because of how water costs are calculated; if you have more or the same number of bedrooms as people who live in your home, a meter could save you money, as you’ll be using less water than your utility company expects.

But for larger households, a meter could cost far more — leaving some customers with spiralling bills when the cost of living is already alarmingly high.

So, with all this talk of the precious commodity, how much water does the average person use in a day? From that nightly garden sprinkler to enjoying a power shower, many of us are washing unnecessary gallons down the sink without a second thought.

Water, water everywhere . . . but not a drop falling from the sky. The recent record-breaking heatwave, combined with a lack of rainfall in many parts of the UK, has put us on the cusp of a national drought

According to Thames Water, a family of four typically uses 480 litres of water a day — equivalent to three full bathtubs — while a more efficient daily usage for four people is 320 litres. Water costs vary, depending on where you live, averaging approximately 0.15p per litre.

With this in mind, SARAH RAINEY monitored her family of four’s usage in an average day — only to find, to her horror, that despite measuring out water for a cup of coffee and stopwatch-timing her shower, they got through more than 800 litres — the same as four six-ton elephants drink in a day…

MY HOUSEHOLD’S USAGE, DRIP BY DRIP…

7am: Like most people, the first thing I do each morning is use the loo. If you have a modern cistern, like me, each flush uses five litres of water.

If you’ve got an older toilet (made before 1992), this rises to nine litres because their flush valve and internal water release mechanisms are less efficient. Next, I wash my hands and face in the sink. A running tap wastes six litres of water a minute, so my 30-second splash uses three litres.

The big wasters at home 

Sprinklers: The lawn may look parched and yellow, but try to resist watering it: using a sprinkler for just 30 minutes wastes 540 litres of water — almost as much as can be drunk by three camels in a day!

Jet-washing the patio: Pressure-washers may be quicker and more effective than a standard hose, but they’re not efficient. An average pressure-washer uses 36 litres of water per minute; 20 minutes of cleaning equates to a whopping 720 litres.

Cleaning windows: Even professionals get through 25 to 30 litres of water cleaning the windows of a standard house, so this isn’t a job to do every week.

Shaving your legs: This can extend the length of a shower by five minutes, adding a whopping 65 litres. And men are water-wasters, too: leaving a tap running while shaving can waste four litres.

Bathing the dog: While pets love a cooling bath on a hot day, pet wash fittings for the hose — which make it more like a shower head — do nothing to stop water wastage, meaning you’re still using 15 litres a minute (or 75 litres for a five-minute wash). At the very least, do it on the lawn or beside a flower bed, so the water does some good.

Total: 8 litres (1.2p)

7.30am: Time for a quick shower — something of a luxury since my two sons, aged 11 months and three, arrived. I wash and shampoo and condition my hair in six minutes (two minutes less than the national average, apparently).

This may sound efficient, but not all showers are equal. Mine, a power shower (with an internal pump for boosting flow) uses 13 litres of water per minute, while a mixer shower (which combines water from the hot and cold supply, but has no pump) uses just eight litres per minute.

The most water-efficient is an electric shower, which heats up using electricity — rather than your boiler — and spouts instant hot water: it uses just five litres per minute. The downside? Higher energy bills, with electricity often pricier than gas.

The type of shower head you have may also make a difference. Mine is a large, rainfall-style fitting, which sounds wasteful but actually uses exactly the same amount as a traditional shower head, because it aerates the flow of liquid, spreads it out over a bigger surface area and comes out slightly slower.

Total: 78 litres (11.7p)

8am: I fill the kettle for my morning coffee. Wary of wasting water, I usually fill it halfway (to the one-litre mark) and use leftover water for top-ups.

Breakfast dishes go in the dishwasher (to be switched on later). I wash the kids’ plastic crockery and cutlery by hand. Running the tap to wash dishes can waste as much as 30 litres of water, so I fill the basin (eight litres) instead.

Total: 9 litres (1.35p)

9am: With a baby and a toddler in the house, there’s a never-ending cycle of laundry. I empty the boys’ laundry baskets and put on a full load of whites using the ‘Easy Care’ setting on my Bosch machine — a programme which takes 60 minutes, can hold 4kg of clothes and washes at 40c. This uses 50 litres of water.

If I used the ‘Eco’ setting, this falls to 30 litres — but it takes more than three hours and I just don’t have the time.

Water usage in washing machines varies from six to 14 litres per kilogram. The most efficient are ‘front load’ machines (LG makes several), which wash clothes by repeatedly picking them up and dropping them into the water, unlike ‘top load’ machines (like mine), which wash by flooding the clothes with water and letting them float around.

Total: 50 litres (7.5p)

10am: I use the loo again and wash my hands; another eight litres. Health experts recommend washing for at least 20 seconds under the tap (I do 30, just to be sure) at least six times a day.

Total: 8 litres (1.2p)

10.30am: Time for tea: I boil the kettle and make a much-needed cuppa for myself and husband.

Total: 1 litre (0.15p)

Noon: Lunchtime. I boil some eggs for the children’s lunch: one litre of water. It’s more efficient to boil water in the kettle first, then pour it into the saucepan. This is because the kettle is a closed system, so the water doesn’t evaporate as it boils.

I do the washing up in the sink (another eight litres), use the toilet (five litres) and wash my hands (three litres).

Total: 17 litres (2.55p)

2pm: It’s another scorching day, so I fill the paddling pool for the boys to cool down in. Our inflatable pool is 1.5m in diameter and has a capacity of 350 litres, which seems huge.

Last month, water companies urged people not to use paddling pools too often, reminding owners that the water can be used afterwards for flowerbeds — or the pool can be covered overnight and the water re-used the following day. I use the hose to fill it to a safe level around two-thirds full.

Total: 233 litres (34.95p)

2.30pm: We’re all soaking wet and the boys are covered in grass. I fill two basins with warm water in the sink and dunk them both for a quick top-to-toe wash.

Total: 16 litres (2.4p)

3pm: The house needs a rigorous clean. Rather than running the hot tap continuously, I use two eight-litre buckets of water to mop the kitchen floor and another for scrubbing the kitchen surfaces, windowsills and bathrooms. In each case, I keep an empty bucket beside the one filled with warm, soapy water; this means I have a ‘dirty’ bucket to wring out my used cloths before soaking them again.

So, with all this talk of the precious commodity, how much water does the average person use in a day? From that nightly garden sprinkler to enjoying a power shower, many of us are washing unnecessary gallons down the sink without a second thought

Total: 24 litres (3.6p)

4pm: The plants, like the rest of us, need a drink. I make a three-litre jug of orange squash for everyone and then turn my attention to the thirsty garden.

A standard garden hose spews out 15 litres of water a minute. Our garden is edged with flowerbeds, so it takes 15 minutes to get round them. Watering with a hosepipe would use 225 litres of water. Instead, I use my ten-litre watering can, filling it five times.

Total: 53 litres (7.95p)

4.30pm: I use the lavatory and wash my hands.

Total: 8 litres (1.2p)

5pm: Dinner time for the boys, and I boil one litre of water to cook some pasta. Once again, I hand-wash their dishes in the sink.

Total: 9 litres (1.35p)

5.30pm: My husband decides to wash the car and I can’t blame him — the windscreen is thick with grime. We opt for a bucket wash over the hose; the latter uses a whopping 250 litres of water, but a hand-wash uses just 30 litres. Both methods are better than taking your car to a professional: tunnel-style car-wash machines can use up to 380 litres of water per car.

Total: 30 litres (4.5p)

6pm: Bath time for the boys. A bath may seem worse for water wastage than a shower, but this isn’t the case: an average bath uses 80 litres (since most people don’t fill it more than half full), only two litres more than my six-minute shower. For children, the water level is much lower — around half this amount.

Total: 40 litres (6p)

7pm: Cooking dinner for myself and my husband requires two litres of water: one to boil some potatoes and one for cooking vegetables on the gas hob. I wash the pans and utensils by hand in the sink: that’s another eight litres down the drain.

Total: 10 litres (1.5p)

With this in mind, SARAH RAINEY monitored her family of four’s usage in an average day — only to find, to her horror, that despite measuring out water for a cup of coffee and stopwatch-timing her shower, they got through more than 800 litres — the same as four six-ton elephants drink in a day…

8pm: The dishwasher is full and ready to switch on. Mine is a newly installed Bosch machine, which has ‘Eco’ (50c), ‘Normal’ (65c) and ‘Intensive’ (70c) modes.

The Eco setting is both more energy-efficient and saves around four litres of water per wash, since it heats the water to a lower temperature and soaks the dishes in it for longer, so less liquid is needed to get them clean.

However, I’ve got a couple of really greasy dishes, so I stick to the Normal mode — this uses 14 litres of water.

Total: 14 litres (2.1p)

8.30pm: A neighbour pops in for a cuppa. I fill the kettle to maximum for a big pot of tea.

Total: 2 litres (0.3p)

10pm: Time for bed. I use the loo (five litres), wash my hands and face (running the tap for 30 seconds uses three litres) and brush my teeth (one minute equates to six litres).

Total: 14 litres (2.1p)

Extra splashes: My husband and elder son using the loo and washing their hands about eight times a day adds up to 64 litres.

Drinking water: the NHS recommends six to eight cups (around two litres) a day for adults and four cups for children, so that’s six litres between us.

Water companies say around 113 litres of water per property are lost through leaks — such as dripping taps and loos — every day.

Total: 183 litres (27.45p)

OUR DAILY TOTAL: 807 litres (£1.21)

CONCLUSION

I’m shocked we’ve used almost double the recommended amount for a family.

If we kept this up for a month, that’s 25,017 litres — costing us £37.53. Given how careful we already are, it’s a cautionary reminder not to waste a drop.

Six easy ways to save H20 

1 Pour cold water into your tea or coffee cup first and tip this into the kettle, ensuring you only boil the water you need. Better still, buy a kettle with a cup indicator.

2 As much as ten litres of water is wasted every day waiting for taps to run hot or cold. Instead, keep a jug or basin in the bathroom and use it to collect the unwanted water. You can use this for doing the dishes, cleaning the sink or washing your face.

3 Consider flushing the toilet less often. The saying ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ could save around 30 litres of water a day. Alternatively, install a ‘save-a-flush’ or water displacement device (provided free by many water companies). They displace water in the cistern so the flush is cut by one to two litres. You can also get dual flush valves (from £22, amazon.co.uk) offering a big or small flush — the latter uses 3.5 litres.

4 Fit an aerator on taps. This gadget (from £3.99, amazon.co.uk) is a small metal net which draws air into the water flow, reducing the amount of liquid not the pressure. And when brushing your teeth, don’t let the tap run constantly. Just dip your toothbrush in a glass of water.

5 Use the ‘Eco’ setting on your washing machine. It may take longer, but this is because it only heats to 30c and uses around 40 per cent (20 litres) less water. Make sure your machine, like your dishwasher, is full before use.

6 Get a water butt for the garden. A barrel fitted to the drainpipe, it collects rain from gutters. A 200-litre one is adequate for most gardens (£38, wickes.co.uk). Gardening experts suggest watering plants in the evening so they absorb water through their roots. On a hot day it evaporates. Consider using waste water from the bathroom and kitchen: cooled, starchy pasta water is full of flowerbed-friendly nutrients.

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