Flushing the loo to gardening: how to save water around the home

27 08 2022 | 06:31Rupert Jones

Another heatwave is looming and many parts of the country are preparing for emergency water measures to combat drought.

Britons do use a lot of water – on average, more than citizens in most other European countries – so what can people do to cut their usage?

Sort out your loo

“The amount of water flushed down our toilets is considerable – it’s the second-biggest use of water in the home behind showering,” says the Energy Saving Trust. A so-called cistern displacement device can be popped into your toilet cistern: when you flush, the device inflates, saving you between one and two litres every time you flush.

They are easy to install and available for free from most water companies, according to Waterwise, an organisation that focuses on reducing water consumption in the UK. They will often have different names – for example, Southern Water gives away free “save-a-flush bags”.

Some claim you can get the same effect by putting a brick in your cistern, but others argue that a brick may disintegrate over time or reduce the toilet’s effectiveness.

Have shorter and more efficient showers

The average shower head uses 12 litres of water a minute, with power showers using about 15 litres, according to Waterwise. Given that the average shower lasts about 10 minutes, that’s up to 150 litres of water going down the plughole each time.

Low-flow shower heads reduce the amount of water used to about six litres a minute “while still giving you the feel of a normal shower,” the organisation says.

Using a four-minute timer when you get in can make you realise how long you spend in the shower and could typically save you 30 litres a day, says the Energy Saving Trust.

Water your plants from your bath

Some homeowners say it is relatively easy to rig up a simple system that lets you siphon bathwater via a hosepipe through your bathroom window down to a waiting water butt or watering cans and buckets. You can then use this to water your garden during dry spells.

There are websites and videos that explain how it’s done, including one on the Renewable Energy UK website, and a YouTube video that contains a simple step-by-step guide.

Some argue this is “dirty water” that should be used immediately and not on fruit and veg, while others say it is fine provided you use eco-friendly soaps and shampoos etc.

Save water when in the garden

Hoses and sprinklers typically use about 1,000 litres of water an hour, which is more than 12 baths, says Waterwise. Attaching a trigger nozzle to your hosepipe will halve the amount of water used and help direct the flow to your plants’ roots.

Better still, use watering cans for flowerbeds and pots. Invest in a water butt if you haven’t already, because at some point it will rain again. And stop watering your lawn – it will bounce back.

More effective dishwashing

Experiment with the settings on your dishwasher (if you have one). Many modern machines offer “eco” or “economy” settings, but lots of people have never used them.

Make sure it is always full when you use it. The average dishwasher uses 10 litres of water each time, so if you can run it less often, that will save on water and your energy bills.

And avoid pre-rinsing dishes under the tap. “Detergents are highly effective, so all you need to do is simply scrape and place,” says Waterwise.

Flushing the loo to gardening: how to save water around the home