With the full extent of the COVID-19 outbreak rearing its ugly head, the pockets of many working families have been hard-hit. Even before the outbreak, research shows that up to 3 million households struggle to afford their rising water bills.
With the UK Government’s 'lockdown measures' inevitably meaning more time at home and more water used, I share my tips for reducing water usage in times of lockdown.
Be mindful when gardening
Many of us over-water our plants and in the warmer months, up to 70 percent of the nation’s water use goes on our gardens. If you’re spending more time in the garden, while self-isolating, use attachable hose nozzles to have full control of the water you use while watering plants. Often, it's best to water your garden early in the morning or late at night – this reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation.
Always choose the right time to water; if the soil is damp, it’s fine. You should only be watering every 7-10 days to maintain healthy soil.
Make use of technology
Generally, water is the easiest utility to cut back on. Many new water-saving technologies are easy to install and cost very little to buy. For example, 31 percent of home water comes from flushing toilets. A simple technology, like a cistern displacer, can reduce the amount of water released in a flush down by a third. The shower is also a culprit for home water waste. Anything more than 8 minutes spent in the shower is just as wasteful as the average bath.
Think about the efficiency of your showerheads too. Some use between 12 – 22 litres of water per minute whereas others like a 3-star WELS rated shower can save up to half of this, using only 9 litres.
When it comes to water bills, it’s the small changes that make the difference. Choosing to wash-up rather than use the dishwasher can save you 49 litres of water with every use. Turning the taps off when you’re brushing your teeth can save an additional 4 litres per person, every day. In times of financial hardship, try reducing non-essential uses of water around the home. Minimise the amount you use in the garden and trivial things like washing your car. If you really have to, use buckets over hoses; this instinctively makes you use only as much as you need.
It is also important to check for leaks. Even a ‘small leak’, averaging a drop per second, will cost you around 19 litres a day. If left unchecked they can quickly arise into bigger structural problems and hefty insurance claims. If you discover a leak, it’s best not to try and tackle it yourself. It’s always better to call a plumbing professional with the correct knowledge on how to fix any problems quickly and efficiently.
Check what you’re paying for
Despite the water industry being privatised, you’re generally limited to one water provider so, it's always good to stay up to date on your plan and note down any increases or price changes. Depending on the size of your property and how many people are living in it, you could be on a more costly plan. Bigger houses or less populated houses will benefit from a meter and a ‘pay-what-you-use’ plan instead of rateable billing.
You can also evaluate your house to see if you’re paying too much. Things like owning a septic tank can cut sewerage charges and having a soak-away can cut surface water draining charges.