Washing clothes uses 343.2 billion litres of water a year, equivalent to draining 20 Lake Windermeres, and costs UK households £2.43 billion in electricity

Posted: Tuesday 10th December 2013

New analysis prompts calls for Government to encourage water-saving innovations and a reduction in water use, rather than just looking at ways to cut water bills.

Following news that Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has urged water companies to ‘look closely’ at whether price increases are necessary, new analysis reveals that UK households currently use a staggering 343.2 billion litres of water a year in washing machines, equivalent to draining 20 Lake Windermeres or filling 137,280 Olympic Swimming Pools.

The full environmental impact of clothes washing is revealed in new analysis from Xeros, which reveals UK households are paying £92.05 per household a year in electricity costs for washing machines, equivalent to £2.43 billion a year across the UK. In addition water costs are estimated to increase that bill to around £130 / year per household*.

With reports that the Government has urged water companies to review water charging, Xeros, which has developed a new ‘green’ washing machine, says more needs to be done to encourage households to use less water, rather than merely reducing the price per unit.

Xeros argues that the Government should challenge industry to develop new water saving products and appliances, as cutting household water consumption has shown little progress and lags behind similar initiatives to make household goods more energy efficient. When it comes to washing machines, Xeros says that water saving has now hit a glass ceiling and that little more resource savings can be made without impairing washing performance. Instead it advocates adopting disruptive new technologies, like bead-cleaning.

Xeros CEO Bill Westwater states: “In this country we often behave like there is an endless supply of water – and there isn’t. The World Wildlife Fund showed that the UK is just 38% self-sufficient in water, making this country the sixth largest net importer of water in the world, with much of the water we use embedded in food products and materials we buy from other nations.

“Separately, the Environment agency has calculated that we use 50% more water today than we did 25 years ago. We need to do more to conserve water and we would like to see the Government acting to encourage households to use less, and industry to develop new appliances that slash water use.

“While it is understandable that the Government is keen to help householders reduce the price they pay for water, the only sustainable long-term solution is to reduce demand and bring bills down that way. If we don’t then the UK risks more water-rationing, more hose-pipe bans and, ultimately, even higher water bills.”

Xeros’ analysis of ONS, Energy Saving Trust, OFWAT and media data reveals that UK households do a total of 132 million washes a week, which accounts for 7% of the household electricity bill.

Figures from OFWAT suggest that the average 150 litres of water a day that is used per person in UK households has actually increased over recent years, despite growing awareness that water conservation has to be a priority.

Bill Westwater concludes: “The EU recently announced that it is to look at developing a standardised cistern design for domestic toilets in a bid to cut water use across Member States. While some commentators dismissed the announcement as ‘red tape’ the EU is moving in the right direction by taking steps to reduce demand for water, it is critical that legislators force this issue.”

Xeros has developed an award-winning bead-cleaning system, which uses polymer beads in washing machines, replacing much of the water while actually cleaning clothes better. Xeros washing machines use 70% less water, 50% less energy and 50% less detergent than conventional ‘aqueous’ washing machines.

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April 2021

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