New research lifts the lid on people’s unusual water habits

Photo of someone bathingAlmost 1 in 5 people have left the tap running to drown out the sound of them using the toilet, according to new research which has lifted the lid on our water habits.
Leaving the shower running to ‘get some peace and quiet’  from the rest of the household was also among the bathroom behaviours revealed in the Consumer Council for Water’s (CCW) Lifting the Lid: The Secrets of Our Water Habits.

CCW wanted to test how common a range of water habits were among households and whether people viewed them as wasteful.

Some of the most common habits included:
  • Running the shower for longer than needed just to get some peace and quiet away from family or housemates (29%) 
  • Running the bathroom tap to cover up the sound of using the toilet (17%)
  • Flushing the toilet twice after having a ‘number two’ (90%)
  • Using the washing machine or dishwasher when it was not full (67%)
  • Taking a bath or shower to cool down (66%)
  • Washing an item of clothing that wasn’t dirty (65%)
  • Staying in the bath so long it needed topping up with warm water (59%)
  • Killing a plant by overwatering it (58%).
But there is cause for optimism too when it comes to encouraging people to become water savvy. More than six out of ten people (63%) felt they could be more water efficient, with 18 to 34 year olds particularly conscious of the need to save water – despite displaying some of the most wasteful habits.

“A good quality, reliable water supply is an essential part of our daily lives from the moment we wake up to when our head hits the pillow at night - but what our findings reveal is that many of us are wasting water without even realising.

“Last summer’s drought brought into sharp focus the need for everyone to value water and use it wisely, which is why it’s encouraging that the majority of people said they recognised the need to do more to reduce their water use. It’s up to the water sector to help guide households towards simple actions that can make a big difference when it comes to saving water.”

Karen Gibbs, Senior Leader for the Environment at CCW.

Some of the less common behaviours people said they had displayed at least once were:
  • Taking a shower immediately after a bath (21%)
  • Having three or more baths/showers a day (20%)
  • Running the shower to get creases out of clothes (15%) 

CCW hopes that by shining a light on some of these habits it can support people in making changes that will not only save water but also, in many cases, cut people’s water and energy bills too. It forms part of the watchdog’s wider People and the Environment stream of work, which aims to help people better understand how their water use impacts the world around them.

Simple changes that can save water and money include:

  • Halving your daily shower time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes – saving an individual up to £200 on their annual water and energy bills, if they have a water meter
  • Cutting out two cycles of your washing machine every week by making sure it’s always fully loaded – saving someone about £40 across the year. 
  • Only running the tap when you need to. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth could save more than 8,000 litres of water a year – shaving about £30 off your water bill.

Tips from CCW

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Posted: 20 April 2023.