There’s nothing like swimming in rivers to bring home the message that we need to turn off our taps and hosepipes to keep them full, clean and living. Water consumption in the UK has gone up 30% since the 1970s, with people using 150-180 litres a day on average. We need to use less! Low water flow in rivers concentrates pollutants, which kills plants and fish. Ideally we would use no more than 125 litres a day each, reducing this to 100 litres in hot summers when water is scarce.
The OSS has been awareness-raising on this since 2006, and in 2008 the OSS December Dip had a use less water message: the 12 water saving ways of Christmas (see news page). in January 2009 the environment agency are releasing a report about the issue - see advance information here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/29/water-shortage-england-wales-meters
Want to save water? Here are some tips for now and later (when you get to DIY):
SAVE WATER NOW: in the house
Turn taps off while brushing teeth or shaving – leaving them running wastes 5-9 litres a minute
Keep cool water in the fridge instead of running taps till the water runs cold
Load washing machines with a full load. The average wash needs about 95 litres of water. A full load uses less water than two half loads.
Wash fruit and veg in a bowl rather than under a running tap, and use the leftover water to water house plants
Boil the minimum amount of water you need in kettles and saucepans
Put cotton wool and tissues in a waste bin rather than flushing them away (old toilet cisterns use as much as 9 litres of clean water with every flush).
Baths use approximately 80 litres of water (power showers can use much too in just five minutes).
Reuse water for houseplants: water from boiled eggs contains beneficial nutrients from the shell, and water from dirty fish tanks is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus – both good fertilisers.
Wash cars with a bucket and sponge: a hosepipe can use up to 1000 litres of water an hour.
SAVE WATER NOW: in the garden
Water your garden in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler. This will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.
Let grass grow a little longer. It will stay greener than a close mown lawn and need less watering. Even if the grass turns brown, it will quickly recover after a few days of rain.
Use a watering can instead of a hose.
Established trees and shrubs do not generally need watering.
If you water plants and shrubs too often their roots will remain shallow, weakening the plant. Leave them alone until they show signs of wilting.
Don’t use sprinklers (they can use as much water in an hour as a family of four uses in a day).
SAVE WATER SOON: in the house
Old toilet cisterns use as much as 9 litres of clean water every flush. Placing a ‘save-a-flush’ in the cistern can lower the volume of water used by up to 3 litres while still giving an efficient flush.
Replace old toilet cisterns with new ones with a half-flush option.
Replace worn tap washers - dripping taps can waste up to 4 litres of water a day
When replacing washing machines and dishwashers chose ‘water efficent’ models – machines with an A rating are the most economical
Install a trigger nozzle in the kitchen – they using it only when needed. This can save up to 225 litres a week.
Lag water pipes and external taps to avoid burst pipes in the winter, which can cause serious damage and waste water.
Install a water meter to save water and money by monitoring how much you use.
SAVE WATER SOON: in the garden
Collect rainwater in water-butts and use a watering can instead of a hose. If you prefer to use a hosepipe, fit a trigger nozzle to control the flow.
Plant flowers and shrubs that thrive in hot and dry conditions such as thyme, evening primrose, rock rose, Californian poppy, pinks, lavender, buddleia and hebes.
For more tips on saving water in the garden see [Alan Titchmarsh suggestions from the Environment Agency] and Royal Horticultural Society advice on saving water http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/watering.asp