Britons urged to stop spending water like money

Tom Whipple Science Correspondent Last updated at 12:01AM, July 4 2013 Every 2.7 seconds, Britons flush away enough water to keep a person hydrated for 80 years. In a year, the water we use in our showers could fill a bath twice the height of the Shard, the tallest building in London. In the same period, the water we use in our baths could have kept seven power showers running continuously from the time of the first Egyptian pharaohs until the present day. The largest survey of Britain’s water use concludes that there is a lot of room for improvement. TheEnergy Saving Trust surveyed 86,000 households and found that 75 per cent of us overfill our kettles, 60 per cent don’t have dual flush lavatories and children from large families may wash less but hog the shower when they get the chance. The average person uses 142 litres of water a day, with 25 per cent going on showering. The authors said that if each household cut a minute off one shower a day it would shave £215 million off our energy bills. It is advice that some may be more receptive to than others: the average time spent in a shower was seven minutes, but 45 per cent rushed through in under six minutes, 42 per cent took up to ten minutes, 13 per cent took more than ten minutes and 1 per cent more than 20 minutes. People in larger households take the longest showers, many of them presumably ignoring the banging of their siblings on the door while they did so. Personal cleanliness is, the Energy Savings Trust argues, one of the key impediments to bringing down water use. In the 1951 census, 38 per cent of households didn’t even have a bath or shower, let alone use it daily. And one in seven did not have a flushing toilet. Although the trust concedes that the spread of flush lavatories is an advance — “Flushing the toilet,” the report notes, “is an unavoidable fact of life” — it bemoans the fact that just 40 per cent are dual flush.

Not all modern advances have been bad, however. Dishwashers are considerably more efficient than handwashing in the sink, so much so that despite their increasing prevalence, handwashing still accounts for more of Britain’s water use: 4 per cent, compared with 1 per cent. Andrew Tucker, water strategy manager at Energy Saving Trust, said the energy used in water supply — in pumping it and heating it — was often overlooked by households. “When people think of energy use they think of heating and lighting, running electrical appliances or filling the car with petrol,” he said. “It’s all too easy to turn on the tap and not think about the consequences. But there is an environmental and energy cost attached to water which many people do not consider. “Hot water use contributes £228 to the average annual combined energy bill. By reducing the amount of water — especially hot water — that we use, we can cut down on the energy demands of our lifestyles, which have changed radically over the last 50 years.”

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