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7 Ways to... Save Water

This month, we're helping you to reduce your water usage in all areas of your life

Water is vital for survival - for that of humans, thousands of different species of non-human animals and plants, and the very Earth we all live and depend upon.

Remarkably, 95.7 per cent of the world's water makes up the oceans - too salty for human use - with the remaining 2.5 per cent locked into the ice caps (friendsoftheearth.uk).

So, we humans, along with many other creatures of Earth who can only consume fresh water, rely on such a tiny amount of this natural resource for life.

Water isn't just used by us for drinking though - we clean with it, wash in it and use it produce everything from food to furniture.

According to the UK Environment Agency, people in England are set to face major water shortages by 2050, unless we act to save water - fast.

If we face water shortages, our environments will suffer and break down, creating a loop of destruction that spans whole food chains and ecosystems. But what causes water shortages?

Climate change is one of the biggest drivers of water scarcities, as well as things we all do, many of them absentmindedly, each day.

Water conservation means using water responsibly and not causing unnecessary waste. By using less water, we can retain more in our ecosystems to help keep crucial wetland habitats full for other creatures, like fish, herons and water voles.

Saving water also helps to prevent pollution in nearby lakes, rivers and local watersheds, and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with treating and distributing water.

 

Not only is saving water better for the environment and our own survival, but it's also good for your wallet! If these reasons don't sway you to start saving water, nothing will. So, what can we do? Try these ideas to start saving water, today.

1. Make your bathroom breaks water-efficient

Get a low-flush, water-efficient or dual-flush toilet: The average UK household flushes the toilet 5,000 a year, with each single flush using around 13 litres of water. Modern dual-flush and reduced-flush toilets use six and four litres each time, respectively.

Attach a cistern displacement device to your loo: Displacement devices can save up to 5,000 litres of water every year - they are free from most water companies.

Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth: A running tap can waste over six litres of water a minute! (wildlifetrusts.org)

Fix a dripping tap: A leaky tap can waste 15 litres of water a day.

Shower don't bathe: The average-sized bath takes around 80 litres of water to fill it, whilst a shower typically uses between six and 45 litres, depending on how long you're in there for!

Take shorter showers: On average, each minute spent in the shower uses up to 17 litres of water. Set a timer on your phone or limit showering to only the time it takes to actually get clean.

Install water-efficient shower heads: Many plumbing and hardware stores sell inexpensive shower heads or flow restrictors that will reduce your shower flow, to save you water and money on bills.

2. Change your kitchen habits

If washing dishes by hand, don't leave the water running: Use a washing up bowl instead of filling up the sink to reduce the volume of water used to fill the area.
Keep a jug of tap water in the fridge: Pour out a glass of water from the jug whenever you want a cold drink, rather than waiting for the tap to run cold, which can waste 10 litres of water a day! (wildlifetrusts.org)
Only fill the kettle with the amount of water needed for hot drinks and cooking: There's no point in boiling water you will only tip away.
Put your dishwasher and washing machine on with full loads: Washing a full machine-load of clothes uses less water and energy than two half-loads (friendsoftheearth.uk). Also, run them on eco-settings wherever possible.
Be plumbing prepared: Regularly check your kitchen pipes and the dishwasher hose for slow leaks.
Find out where your household stop valve is: This will mean you can turn it on and off - useful if you ever have a burst pipe.

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Group of young people practicing yoga In the prayer position at gym, Concept of relaxation and meditation

3. Use less water in the garden

Water outdoor plants in the early morning or evening: Prevent water from evaporating in the sunlight and heat of the day.
Use vegan-friendly mulch and bark in your garden around plants: This will help to reduce water evaporation after watering by up to 75 per cent (wildlifetrusts.org).
Try to fill your garden with drought-resistant plants: The less plants need watering, the better.
If you have a lawn, don't water it: Wait for the rain to water your grass naturally. In truth, it's okay for it to go a little brown, because it will soon recover once rain hits it.
Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe or sprinkler: Left running, garden hosepipes and sprinklers can use between 500 and 1,000 litres of water an hour (wildlifetrusts.org). You can reduce water use by 33 per cent by watering plants manually, instead of with sprinklers (friendsoftheearth.uk).
Install a water butt to collect rainwater off your roof: Water butts can store about 200 litres of water at a time - use what it collects to water plants and wash your car and windows, this can save up to 5,000 litres of water a year! Rainwater is also much better for plants than treated tap water.

Group of young people practicing yoga In the prayer position at gym, Concept of relaxation and meditation

4. Alter your diet

Eat vegan: Rearing animals for meat and dairy is incredibly water-intensive. By cutting out meat and dairy you will be conserving water, as well as saving animal lives. To make one beef burger, 2,500 litres of water is required - in contrast, a vegan patty needs between 75-95 per cent less water (weforum.org).
Try to consume locally and seasonally: Growing and harvesting crops at large and unsustainable scales has massive water demands, and if they are flown in from abroad, this means that even more water has been used to get them to you. As much as possible, buy fruit and veg from your local greengrocers or farm shops, and eat what is seasonal.
When cooking, steam your veggies to cut water usage: Steaming will also help to better retain their nutrients! If you must boil, use the leftover water to make a yummy stock for soups or stews. Or, let it cool and use it to water your plants.
Reduce food waste: It takes a lot of water to produce fruit, vegetables, cereals and other foods and drinks, so once you've bought your shopping, don't waste it! According to Friends of The Earth, more than half of the seven million tonnes of food and drink UK households bin each year, could be eaten. If you have food that you know won't be eaten, freeze or donate it via food waste app, Olio.

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5. Be mindful with clothes

Buy less clothes and accessories: The textiles industry is one of the most water intensive industries of them all. A staggering 113 billion litres of water is required for one year's worth of global textile production, including cotton farming (treehugger.com).

So, buy clothes to last, not to bin after a few wears, and take care of them -patch them up if they got a hole, and re-zip them if needed.

By extending the lifespan of clothing items by nine months, you can reduce the water footprint by five to 10 per cent.

Look for clothes made with waterless dyes: A massive 85 per cent of the water used in textile processing goes into dying fabrics, which in many cases, leads to run-off, polluting nearby water sources (cottoninc.com).

It's estimated that around 20 per cent of industrial water pollution worldwide is as a result of the treatment and dying of textiles.

Choose clothes made from alternative low-water materials, like bamboo: The growth of bamboo grass is achieved without any watering, pesticides or insecticides. It also limits soil erosion and improves the fertility of soil.

The solvent used to process it is non-toxic and used in a closed-loop process. Hemp is also great for similar low-water reasons, however, high amounts of energy is needed in the transformation process.

If you must purchase cotton clothes, only buy organic: To make just one cotton T-shirt, the water used is equivalent to 900 days of drinking water - that's around 3,250 litres (wwf.org.uk).

Similarly, 8,183 litres of water is needed to grow enough cotton to make one pair of jeans (treehugger.com).

So, look for organic cotton with certification to prove it - this means it is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers, so you won't be contributing to water pollution.

Nonetheless, even certified organic cotton requires lots of water to grow the crop, so you must still make sure to make your garment last as long as possible.

6. Watch your finances

Don't fund 'water-grabbers': 'Water-grabbing' happens all over the world - this is when companies and investors buy up land around the world and contribute to water scarcity and pollution (friendsoftheearth.uk). Sometimes these organisations deny local people access to water, pollute watercourses or deplete supplies.

Not only does this inhibit local communities from farming, but it means they don't have access to safe drinking water. Get clued up on where your savings or pension is invested and check out the companies that make your favourite products to make sure they don't mistreat local water supplies.

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7. Take action with the government

Governments around the world have it within their power to help to save freshwater and pollution. They can do this by:

• Measuring water use and setting targets to reduce it
• Obliging large companies to measure and manage the amount of resources they use
• Encouraging lower-water diets, including reduced meat and dairy consumption
• Supporting industry to make water-intensive products last longer, like cotton clothing
• Providing consumers with the tools to understand the water impacts of the things they buy, like food and clothes
• Making laws to increase water recycling

• Preventing people and companies from polluting waterways by making laws against using toxic chemicals which could pollute our soils (friendsoftheearth.uk).

To put pressure on the government, join a climate action group and help to drive change locally and nationally. Alternatively, write to the government and large water-intensive companies, asking them to look into water usage and waste policies.

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.