How to use less water

As water supplies lessen, here’s how to attune your habits

When it comes to saving water, small habits can make a big difference. Imani, Unsplash
12 October 2022
12 October 2022

Water scarcity is an increasingly common reality. Around the world, 3.6 billion people currently live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month of the year, and this is expected to increase to up to 5.7 billion people by 2050. To stave off scarcity, we’d be wise to get accustomed to using less water – ideally before we reach the point where we have no choice! Here are some easy ideas for getting water-wise:

Go water-light in the bathroom 

Switching off the tap while you shampoo your hair or brush your teeth will save you six liters a minute. Shorter showers, full washing loads instead of half-loads, and fewer toilet flushes also make a difference; if you’re able to, go for water-efficient appliances like a reduced-flow shower head, a front-loading washing machine and a dual-flush toilet (or better still, a composting one). 

Use the dishwasher 

If you’ve got one, and you fill it up completely, you’ll use less water than you would doing the dishes in the sink – even if you’re using a washing-up bowl. 

Eat less water-intensive foods 

Our diets account for around half of all the water we use, and animal products are some of the most water-intensive – for instance, it takes an average of 15,415 liters to produce just one kilo of beef, while the same amount of vegetables requires an average of just 322 liters. There’s also considerable variation depending on how things are grown – an avocado grown conventionally in arid Petorca, Chile, has around double the water footprint of one grown in tropical Michoacán, Mexico, using precision irrigation and regenerative techniques. Eating locally and in season, where possible, is usually a good way to go. 

Reduce and make use of food waste 

About a third of all the food we produce is lost or wasted between farm and fork every year – a lot of water (and greenhouse gas emissions) for nothing. Find waste-avoiding tips at Love Food Hate Waste, and go a step further by composting the waste you can’t avoid instead of using a water-hungry in-sink disposal system or sending it to landfill to emit damaging methane emissions. 

Water your garden at dusk or dawn

This will serve your plants much better than watering in the middle of the day, when water quickly evaporates with the light and heat. Bonus points for collecting rainwater, or greywater from your showers or sink, for your watering routine. 

Advocate for sustainable water use

It’s not all in our hands. Letting our government representatives – and the companies we buy from – know that we care about water is another critical part of taking care of this resource for ourselves, our ecosystems and future generations.

Calculate your water footprint, and get more ideas for cutting it down using this tool at the Water Footprint Network.

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