Saving water

Sustainability is now firmly integrated into our everyday lives. We buy second-hand, we reuse and upcycle, we try our hand at DIY projects, we buy seasonally and regionally. All these measures ultimately aim to save as many resources as possible. Responsible use of water as a resource always plays a special role. In the following, we would like to address the question: How can I save water in everyday life and optimise my water consumption?

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Why does it make sense to save water?

The UK is a water-rich country and freshwater supplies are in good condition. Data for 2014 shows that only 5.53 per cent of the freshwater in stock (groundwater and surface water) is actually pumped. So the UK is not (yet) suffering from a concrete water shortage. What these figures do not show, however, is the fact that in some places – e.g. around large cities – the groundwater level is sinking faster, with negative consequences. For example, the sinking of groundwater can lead to the drying out of wetlands and to settlement cracks on buildings.  

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In addition to these negative ecological impacts that excessive water consumption can cause, saving water is ultimately worthwhile for very mundane reasons. The most obvious is the relief on the wallet. And who is not happy a lower water bill?  

So saving water pays off in the truest sense of the word. From a financial and ecological point of view, it makes sense to save not only water, but especially hot water. On average, every fourth litre of water consumed in is hot water, which requires energy to heat. In total, 14 percent of a household’s energy consumption is used to heat water. So if you reduce your (hot) water consumption, you not only save heating costs, but also CO2 emissions and do something good for the environment.    

 

The development of water consumption from 1980 to today

In the UK, water consumption has fallen steadily and significantly over the last 20 years, after initially rising to a peak of 266m³ per capita per year in the twenty years from 1980 to 2000. In the meantime, however, this value has more than halved. Thus, the total annual consumption per person was 129m³ in 2015. The average water consumption per day and person is 149 litres. With this balance, Great Britain is in the middle of the pack compared to other industrial nations. In Belgium, water consumption is only 120 litres, in Germany 122 litres, in France 148 litres, in Norway 260 litres and in the USA even 295 litres.

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What is the composition of daily water consumption?

Water consumption in litres per capita per day in the UK averages 149 litres. According to water management estimates, this consumption is made up of the following factors (all figures are rounded): 

  • 1.5 l dishwasher  
  • 3 l car and garden
  • 6 l dishwashing (by hand)   
  • 10.5 l hot water in the bathroom   
  • 13.5 l washing machine 
  • 33 l cold water use 
  • 33 l toilet flushing 
  • 49.5 l for bathing and showering
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As this diagram illustrates, 33 litres of water per day are used for toilet flushing alone. This factor is eliminated completely when using TROBOLO® urine-diverting toilets, which we will discuss in more detail below. You can also find a detailed description of the savings potential of TROBOLO® in our section on sustainability. 

Link UK: https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/reports/AtHomewithWater%287%29.pdf 

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Where can water be saved in the household and garden?

Whether out of love for the environment or to lighten the load on your wallet – with these practical tricks you can reduce your water consumption quickly and reliably. 

As is often the case, the small but subtle difference lies in changing your own behaviour. 

  • Showering instead of bathing: While an average of 15 litres are used when showering, the water consumption when bathing amounts to roughly 140 litres – almost ten times as much! 
  • Turn off the tap: The Corona pandemic has taught even the last of us that thorough hand hygiene requires 20-30 seconds of soaping time. If you turn off the tap during this time, you save a considerable amount of water every day.  
  • Clean fruit and vegetables in a bowl: Instead of under a running tap. Here, too, you can save litres of water. Afterwards, the water can even be used to water plants.
  • Use a toothbrush cup: Similar to using a bowl when cleaning fruit and vegetables, the toothbrush cup allows you to accurately measure the amount of water you need and prevents the (subconscious) bad habit of leaving the tap running unnecessarily. 
  • Filling the washing machine correctly: unless you have a modern washing machine with an automatic volume control (which regulates the amount of water used depending on how full it is), it is important to always load the washing machine fully to ensure efficient water use.  
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Furthermore, water consumption at home can be significantly reduced if we pay attention to the ‘proper functionality of the appliances on the one hand and optimise them with water-saving functions on the other. 

  • Check seals and insulation: Due to dripping taps on average about 2000 litres are wasted per year and household. Defective seals are not only a cost factor, but also have a considerable influence on the water balance of a household. 
  • Flow limiters and economy shower heads: If you want to save water effectively in the bathroom, you can’t avoid these cost-effective upgrades. Once installed, they can save up to 50 percent on water and 25 percent on energy costs for hot water.
  • Regulation of the toilet’s water consumption: Modern cisterns have an integrated stop button, which allows for reduced toilet’s water consumption by about 50 percent. Older cisterns can be equipped with such a button for about 10 euros. Finally, the most uncompromising variant is to use one of our TROBOLO® urine-diverting toilets. Thanks to the waterless mode of operation, 100 percent of the water is saved compared to conventional toilets!
  • Efficient appliances: When buying a new washing machine or dishwasher, their water and energy consumption should be a decisive purchase criterion. After all, these appliances contribute to 20 percent of the total water consumption. In addition, the water used for rinsing and washing is often heated. This means that water-saving appliances are often also energy-saving. If your current appliance consumes a lot of water and electricity, it is usually worth buying a new one before it breaks down. 
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A few simple tricks can also save a lot of water in the garden. 

  • Mowing the lawn: A lawn that is always trimmed short dries out faster and therefore needs more water. If, on the other hand, you leave the grass to itself from time to time, not only the water balance will be happy, but also insects which benefit from letting the grass grow naturally.
  • Watering: A lawn sprinkler should be avoided if possible. A water-saving option is to use a drip hose. You can also water your lawn according to its individual needs, as shaded areas dry out less quickly than the middle of the lawn. This way, many litres of water can be saved.
  • Watering times: If possible, you should water plants and flowers in the morning or evening hours, as they use less water at this time than in the sun-intensive midday hours. 

Virtual water - problems of a globalised world

Anyone who seriously considers the topic of saving water will sooner or later come across the term “virtual water”. Virtual water indicates the amount of water actually needed for the production of goods and products. A distinction is made between three types of virtual water (green, blue, grey). Green virtual water refers to water that is obtained from rainfall and soil moisture. Blue virtual water stands for the amount of water used for artificial watering. Finally, grey virtual water is affected during use (e.g. by fertilisers) and can only be reused to a limited extent. 

To illustrate this classification, the virtual water balance of one kilogram of beef is presented as an example. 

Beef is one of the products with the highest consumption of virtual water. On average, 15,415 litres of virtual water are needed worldwide to produce one kilogram of beef. However, 14,414 litres (93.5%) of this is green water, i.e. water that falls as rain on the forage areas. The remaining 6.5% is made up of blue and grey water. Beef production thus requires huge amounts of water (even if most of it comes from rainfall). Compared to this, relatively little water is required for a kilogram of pork or chicken (4,800 and 3,900 litres respectively). Other products require relatively little water, such as almonds, but artificial watering is used to increase yields. Almonds, for example, have a rather proud virtual water balance of 13,000 litres per kilogram.

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If one includes the virtual water footprint of products consumed in the UK in the calculation of average water consumption, it increases from the 149 litres mentioned to a full 4645 litres of water. This is particularly problematic because the UK imports much more virtual water through imported products than it exports. In short, the UK’s water footprint is not exactly ideal despite comparatively low water consumption (excluding virtual water). 

So if you are serious about saving water, you should not only try to reduce water consumption in your own household, but also pay attention to the virtual water footprint of products when shopping in future and rethink your consumption behaviour if necessary. 

Further information on the topic can be found at: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_water

https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Orr_and_Chapagain_2008_UK_waterfootprint-vol1.pdf

Urine-diverting toilets from TROBOLO® - far more than just water-saving 

All of our TROBOLO® urine-diverting toilets function completely waterless. The savings potential is therefore enormous. According to the water management estimates mentioned earlier, the daily water consumption per capita in the UK is 149 litres. The amount of water needed for toilet flushing amounts to 33 litres per day, accounting for 22 per cent of total water consumption. With TROBOLO® waterless urine-diverting toilets, you thus reduce your water consumption by more than a fifth of the total amount and not only improve your water balance, but also reduce your running costs by a significant amount.

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Finally, with urine-diverting toilets from TROBOLO® you make an important contribution to sustainability for several reasons. Not only do you save valuable water, but at the same time you prevent it from reaching the water treatment plants in the form of black water, where it has to undergo complex cleaning processes before it can be returned to the water cycle. Thanks to the TROBOLO® separation system, it is also possible to compost the toilet waste and return it to nature once the decomposition process is complete. This makes (the return to) a sustainable way of living child’s play. 

You can find more information on the environmental balance of our urine-diverting toilets in our sections on sustainability and composting.

TeambildJannik
Written by
Jannik
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