Vast scale of Britain's water use revealed in new report

Posted: Thursday 18th July 2013

Energy Saving Trust study of 86,000 homes is the biggest ever in UK.

At Home with Water, a report commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust Foundation in partnership with DEFRA, Procter and Gamble, Thames Water, Consumer Council for Water and SaveWaterSaveMoney, presents the findings from a study of 86,000 British households – and sheds new light on how Brits use water.

Showers are the biggest consumers of water in the home, using a quarter of the total – three per cent more than lavatories (22 per cent).

At Home with Water found an average shower lasts seven-and-a-half minutes – and cutting a MINUTE off that time would save British households £215 million on energy bills each year.

Each day Britain “showers away” over TWO BILLION litres of water. At Home with Water pulls back the curtain on the showering habits of Brits, finding:

Away from the bathroom, At Home with Water found that just over a fifth (22 per cent) of household water is used in the kitchen, with washing machines, dishwashers, kettles and taps all taking their share.

More than nine in ten people (95 per cent) boil the kettle every day, with 40 per cent doing this five times a day or more. However, three quarters of households still boil more water than they need – with overfilling costing Brits £68 million a year.

Despite the increasing use of new technology in UK homes, dishwashers are still second-best to handwashing in many cases. The average British household washes dishes by hand ten times a week, but only uses the dishwasher three times a week. Energy Saving Trust states that larger households could actually make greater energy and water savings by using an efficient, modern dishwasher rather than washing by hand.

Andrew Tucker, water strategy manager at Energy Saving Trust, said: “When people think of energy use they think of heating and lighting, running electrical appliances or filling the car with petrol. 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. On average, hot water use contributes £228 to the average annual combined energy bill.

“It’s clear that we are all using more water-consuming appliances regularly, especially showers, but that doesn’t mean we’re powerless to control our water use.

“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. Following three simple steps from the Energy Saving Trust will help reduce the energy and water bills of consumers – and stop their money spiralling down the plughole.”

Energy Saving Trust is urging Britons to follow three simple tips to save water and energy, without impacting on their lifestyle. An average UK household could save £22 on their energy bills each year, with metered households saving an additional £13 on their water bills by:

If everyone in the UK followed these three tips, the country could save around £600 million annually on its energy bills.

Other key findings from the report include:

The findings from At Home with Water were compiled from data collected between 2010 and 2012 from the Energy Saving Trust’s Water Energy Calculator, which allows users to take a virtual tour of their home and fill-in simple details about their water use. The calculator then lets householders see how much water they use throughout the home, how much that use costs them, and what they could do to make monetary savings each year.

At Home with Water will enable consumers, businesses and government to understand how water is used, forecast future trends and take action to save water and energy.

The research study was commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust Foundation, which empowers people to lead affordable, low-energy lifestyles. At Home with Water, which has been funded by DEFRA, Procter and Gamble and Thames Water, forms part of the Energy Saving Trust’s Big Energy Rethink, which aims to change the way we all think about energy and water.

Paul Rutter, sustainable water manager at Thames Water, said: “The future challenge of finding enough water resources means all water companies have a duty to promote efficiency, and the research carried out by the Energy Saving Trust helps towards that aim. Importantly, their work linking the costs of heating water helps make the point that win-win chances to save both water and energy are out there.”

Tim Robertson, director of SaveWaterSaveMoney, said: “The report’s insight into how much water is used in the home, especially in the bathroom, confirms there is an opportunity to reduce water wastage and utility bills whether water metered or not. This alliance of leading organisations will increase the momentum towards a greater awareness of the need to be water efficient.”

Ian Morley, head of household division for P&G UK and Ireland said: “This research clearly demonstrates how, just by making small everyday changes, every household can really make a big difference to the environment and their budget. We have partnered with the Energy Saving Trust since 2006 to help make everyday acts more sustainable, and to show that simple things such as turning your washing machine to 30c can help you save energy, water and money.”

A second phase of At Home with Water, also funded by the partners, will see in-depth trials of water monitoring in the homes of 100 volunteers. The results of this follow-up study will be used to enhance the findings outlined today.

To read the full text of the At Home with Water report, see the Energy Saving Trust website.

Homeowners wanting more information on saving energy and water at home can visit our site or call the Energy Saving Trust’s helpline on 0300 123 1234 (England and Wales) or Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.

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