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Vast majority of Brits have no idea how much water they use each day

  • Research reveals 46% of people believe their household uses under 20 litres a day
  • A further 17% believe they consume between 20 and 39 litres a day while 15% think they use 40 to 59 litres
  • The average person in the UK uses 142 litres of water a day compared with 121 litres in Germany

This bank holiday as record numbers of people stay at home, Water UK and water efficiency experts Waterwise have joined forces to call for more to be done to educate the public about their water use.

The call comes as new research shows that 46% believe their household uses under 20 litres a day (roughly equivalent to taking a 2-minute shower) when the true figure is closer to 142 litres per person per day. This means an average family of four in the UK could use more than 500 litres each day.

To help people understand the amount of water they use, water companies want government to do more to embed water efficiency in our national psyche.

They are calling on government to use the Environment Bill to introduce water efficiency measures, such as labels on washing machines and dishwashers to show how much water they use, and smarter building regulations to cut water waste.

The misconception is most acute amongst the young with 66% of 18-34-year-olds believing their household uses under 20 litres. However, the lack of awareness continues throughout the age groups with a quarter (26%) of over-65s answering the same.

However, while people are unsure about the amount of water they consume, the vast majority (68%) say they are willing to reduce the amount of water they use at home to help protect the environment.

The water industry is also doing its part with leakage down 7% this year to the lowest level since records began. Companies also have ambitious plans using new technology and innovation to halve leakage by 2050.

The Savanta ComRes polling also revealed:

  • 35% of UK adults say they try to save as much water as possible with 12% saying they don’t try to save any
  • 63% of UK adults say they always turn the tap off when they brush their teeth
  • 42% of UK adults are worried about parts of the UK running out of water in the next 25-years

These revelations come as water companies encourage customers to consider their water usage with record numbers of people staying at home this August bank holiday.

The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak has put increased pressure on water supplies. With many more people staying at home combined with a surge in the number of ‘staycations’ has meant demand for water has been exceptionally high this summer.

As a result of the unique circumstances the water industry launched the ‘Water’s Worth Saving’ Campaign earlier in the summer. The campaign, which builds on the existing awareness raising work of water companies, aims to educate consumers about the water they are using while offering simple hints and tips to help save this precious resource.

Water UK Chief Executive Christine McGourty said:

“The results of this survey illustrate the importance of our Water’s Worth Saving campaign to show the public the value and importance of saving water.

“It’s been a typically unsettled British summer, but we’ve also seen periods of very hot weather in parts of the country. This combined with more people at home and the surge in ‘staycations’ has seen record levels of water demand and has put huge pressure on supplies.

“But there’s things we can all do to save water and small changes can make a big difference. Whether it’s reusing the water from a paddling pool or taking a shorter shower, we all have a role to play in ensuring we have enough water now and for future generations.”

Managing Director of campaign group Waterwise, Nicci Russell, said:

“Waterwise believe that water should be used wisely every day, in every part of the country and whatever the weather.

“We hope that the results of this survey, alongside the Water’s Worth Saving campaign will help the public better understand and value water.

“By making small changes such as turning the tap off when brushing your teeth or swapping a bath for a short shower, you’re not only helping to save water but energy, money, as well as protecting the environment and future supplies.”

Notes to editors

  • Water UK is the trade body representing all of the major water and wastewater companies in the UK. Our members provide drinking water to nearly 64 million people every day.
  • Waterwise is an independent not-for-profit campaigning organisation, and the leading authority on water efficiency in the UK. Our vision is that water will be used wisely, every day, everywhere. We receive funding from Waterwise Supporters and Affiliates across the UK water sector and beyond, and from sponsorship, research and delivery projects. We support and challenge everyone in the UK to be more ambitious on water efficiency.
  • Savanta ComRes surveyed 2,190 UK adults online between July 31 and August 2 2020. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all UK adults by age, gender region and social grade. Full data tables are available at comresglobal.com/our-work/poll-archive/
  • Water’s Worth Saving is a joint initiative between Water UK and Waterwise to help the public save water this summer. More information on the campaign is available here
  • The table below outlines the amount of water used by everyday activities in the home:
Shower 13 litres/min power shower, 8 litres/min mixer shower, 5 litres/ min electric shower
Bath 80 litres per full bath
Toilet 5 litres/flush for a modern cistern as much as 9 litres/flush for an older toilet
Washing Machine 50 litres/cycle
Dishwasher 14 litres/ cycle for a modern dishwasher or 10 litres/ cycle on eco-setting
Hand Washing 8 litres per bowl wash, 30 litres per running tap wash
Car Washing 250 litres per hose use, 30 litres per bucket use