COVID-19 has changed the way people think about water

Graphic stating "Today is World Water Day"
COVID-19 has increased the value we place on water for a third of people in the East of England, finds WaterAid this World Water Day.

A third of people (31%) in the East of England say the focus on hygiene during the pandemic has increased the value they place on water, with 1 in 3 now saying they appreciate having clean water at home, finds WaterAid. Over half (54%) are taking steps to reduce the amount of water they use, beating the UK national average of 49% with their water-saving ways.

Meanwhile, around 1 in 5 (19%) in the region admit to leaving the tap running while brushing their teeth, which could waste up to 23 million litres of water every single day – that’s enough to fill nine Olympic-sized swimming pools.

International charity WaterAid commissioned the survey to mark World Water Day on 22 March, which this year focuses on the value of water, asking 2,000 people across the UK about their perceptions of their water supply, whether COVID-19 has increased appreciation for the humble tap, and who is doing the most to conserve this precious resource.

Nationally, over half (56%) of female respondents are aware about how much water they use and take steps to reduce it, whilst over 2 in 5 (42%) male respondents said the same.

Nearly a third of people (31%) in the East of England save water by not flushing the loo every time. Nationally, older respondents seem a bit more relaxed about letting things ‘mellow if they’re yellow’ with over 2 in 5 (43%) over 55s trying to save water this way, whilst only 1 in 7 young people aged 16 to 24 said the same.

Over half of adults in the East of England say they ensure their appliances like dishwashers and washing machines are water-efficient and 35% collect rainwater to use in their garden.
However, a fifth people in the region (22%) do not think about the amount of water they use. Just 1 in 6 (17%) spend the recommended time of just four minutes in the shower, while nearly half (40%) spend between 5 and 10 minutes. Only 1 in 7 (14%) shower longer than 10 minutes, using at least 120 litres of water each every time.

"Sometimes it can be easy for us to take clean water for granted when we have it on tap, but the challenges of the past year have helped us to realise its importance. We’ve been working on the frontline to keep our supplies going during the pandemic, to help people in Cambridge stay safe and healthy, wash their hands, keep homes and hospitals clean and protect themselves against the spread of coronavirus.

“No matter where you live, no one should have to sacrifice their health or safety just for this basic human right, yet 785 million people around the world do not have clean water at home. That’s why we are committed to supporting WaterAid’s work around the world to reach communities who need it most.”

Rachael Merrell, service delivery director at Cambridge Water.

“One thing we all share is our need for clean water; it has enormous value for our households, health, education, food, economics, culture, and our environment. Frequent handwashing with soap also reduces the spread of coronaviruses by around a third, yet 1 in 10 people globally have had to face the pandemic without clean water close to home. We’re grateful to the UK water industry for keeping the water flowing for us here, whilst also continuing to support our work around the world.

“As the impacts of climate change deepen, we all need to conserve water resources to ensure a sustainable supply for the generations to come. With clean water, communities are more able to stay healthy and protect themselves from diseases like cholera, typhoid, and Covid-19, and have the opportunity to get a good education and support their livelihoods to help them build a better future.”

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive.

UN World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis, and on the goal of achieving water and sanitation for all by 2030. Find out more at

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