Saving water in the home

Water is a precious resource which needs to be used carefully. Water taken from rivers and lakes for human use has an impact on wildlife. By saving water in your home, you can help the environment too.

Flush less water down the toilet

Toilet flushing accounts for about a third of household water usage. You probably flush away as much water in a day as you drink in a whole month. There are easy ways to reduce this by:

  • installing a water displacement device (or 'Save-a-Flush') in the cistern of a higher flush toilet – these reduce the amount of water used for each flush, typically by one or two litres
  • choosing a water-saving, low-flush or dual-flush version when buying a new toilet - low flush toilets use six litres of water per flush compared to nine or more litres for other toilets
  • fitting a variable flushing device to existing higher flush toilets - this will give you a choice of flush volumes to help save water
  • throwing cotton wool, sanitary products and other waste in the bin, not the toilet
  • How to save water - NIWater website

Switch to showers

A quick shower uses much less water than a bath - five minutes in a standard shower uses 35 litres while a bath uses 80 litres. Also, fitting a flow regulator or water-efficient shower head reduces the amount of water you use by 30 per cent without compromising shower performance. These should not, however, be fitted to electric showers as this can lead to overheating of the water. Also, avoid high volume power showers as you can easily use more water than if you had a bath - roughly 90 litres.

Washing machines and dishwashers

Washing machines use roughly 60 litres per cycle. You can save on the water you use by putting on a full load of washing or using the machine's half-load / economy setting.

Dishwasters use roughly 40 litres per cycle. Don't rinse plates before putting them in the dishwasher - the dishwasher will clean them anyway so doing so only wastes water.

Use water-efficient appliances

All new dishwashers and washing machines have a European (EU) energy label which tells you the amount of water used per wash and how energy efficient they are.

Fix dripping taps and leaks

A dripping tap, losing just two drips a second, wastes up to 26 litres of water a day. Simple plumbing jobs can save a lot of water without being expensive. You can:

  • fix dripping taps or overflows; a new washer costs just a few pence and can be fitted in minutes
  • install a leak detector to warn you about leaks in your house
  • put lagging on your outside pipes to help avoid burst pipes and leaks in winter

Turn off the taps

Leaving a tap running while cleaning your teeth, shaving or washing fruit and vegetables can waste about six litres of water a minute. To cut down on wastage you can:

  • collect the cold water that comes through before a tap runs hot and use it for watering plants
  • keep a jug of water in the fridge instead of waiting for the tap to run cold
  • wash fruit and vegetables in a washing up bowl full of water instead of running a tap
  • only fill a kettle to the amount needed
  • defrost food in the fridge or microwave, not under a running tap

Another way to reduce water use is to fit an aerator or spray ends to washbasin taps. An aerator mixes air with water and can reduce water use by up to 50 per cent.

Make use of greywater and rainwater

Any water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called greywater. Shower, bath and washbasin water can be re-used in the garden. More information and guidelines for doing this are on the following page:

You can also collect rainwater to use in your house for flushing toilets, washing cars, watering plants or even for the washing machine. For this you will need a large rainwater harvesting system which must be linked to your domestic plumbing.

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