3 ways to reduce climate impact impact of your water usage

3 ways to reduce the climate impact of your water usage

As the climate change conference unfolds, I’m trying to remain optimistic that world leaders will strike deals that will help protect people and our precious planet. 

The challenges can seem enormous and the statistics pretty scary. It can be confusing to know what we can do as individuals to help play our part in tackling climate change.   

There's a seemingly endless list of things we're told to do, and it's not always easy. But when it comes to the water environment there are just three simple things to remember to help reduce our carbon footprints: 

  1. use less hot water
  2. reduce water wastage
  3. wipe out wipes.  

1. Use less hot water

Around 25% of the energy (gas and electricity) used in our homes is used to heat water for showering, bathing, washing clothes and doing the dishes. Using energy releases carbon into the atmosphere which causes our climate to change, so by using less hot water you can help to do your bit.  

In the shower

Do you love your shower? No problem, I get it - showering isn't just about getting clean, it might be your few minutes of calm each day. Order yourself a free eco-shower head, if you don't already have one, to reduce your water usage without having to think about it.

You could also try the 5:2 shower diet, which involves having five 'normal' length showers and two super-speedy ones throughout the week. If a family of four each spent two minutes less in the shower twice a week, they could save nearly 5000 litres of water a year. This would also prevent 67kg of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, which is roughly equivalent to driving from Bath to Bristol and back eight times.

Washing your clothes

Other hot water reductions can be made by using our washing machines a little less. You can also try washing your clothes at a cooler temperature and only putting on a wash when you have a full load.

Consider letting some items go a little longer without a wash. Could you wear your jeans one or two more times before washing them? Is that jumper actually dirty? The less we wash our clothes the longer they will last (washing machines can be pretty rough on fabrics) and the less water, energy and carbon we'll use.

Person attaching a new shower head
Install an eco-shower head to reduce your water usage in the bathroom.
Washing machine with the door open
Wash your clothes less often and at a cooler temperature to use less energy.

2. Reduce water wastage 

Every drop of water we use at home and work has come from our local rivers or underground water sources. To clean water to drinkable standards and transport it to our homes requires lots of energy that results in carbon emissions (even before some of it is heated). 

Check for plumbing leaks 

Pledging to reduce water wastage by fixing leaking toilets and dripping taps is a really positive way to reduce water wastage and the carbon footprint of your home.   

Around 5% of toilets leak and they tend to go unnoticed. Water trickling down the back of the toilet plan is often silent, which can make them hard to spot. These leaks can waste 200 to 400 litres of water a day – that's like having two extra people living in your home!  

Make sure you don’t have a leaky loo by regularly checking your toilets for leaks. 

Install a water butt 

Installing a water butt will help you to make use of the rain that lands on your roof, shed or greenhouse. This will lower your carbon footprint and save you money on your water bills (if you're on a meter), as you won’t need to use tap water to keep your plants hydrated.  

Many of us don't think about where the rainwater that lands on our property ends up, but many houses and driveways channel it into the wastewater drainage system which carries sewage away from our homes. Capturing some of it in a water butts will help to reduce the volume of rainwater entering the sewerage system which can lower the demand on the network, and so lessen its carbon and environmental impact. 

Person fitting a leaky loo strip
Spot water trickling down the back of your pan by applying a leaky loo strip.
Person filling up a watering can from a water butt
By installing a water butt, you could save up to 1,000 litres of water a year.

3. Wipe out wipes 

In the Wessex Water region, we clear a sewer blockage caused by wet wipes roughly every 40 minutes. Sometimes these blockages cause sewage to back up through people’s toilets or spill from manhole covers, which can pollute streams and rivers.  

The environmental impact of clearing blockages 

Each clean up requires at least one van and a dedicated colleague to drive to the site and remove the wipes. For blockages that cause large amounts of sewage flooding, two or sometimes three vans and operators attend to clear them.  

The removed wet wipes are then driven to a central processing site where they join mountains of other wipes ready for incineration. This process and vehicle emissions produce a surprising amount of carbon.   

You can help us to reduce the environmental impact of clearing blockages by only flushing three Ps – poo, paper and pee.  

Choose reusables alternatives 

Take this a step further by wiping out wipes completely. Most wipes contain some form of plastic, something many of us are trying to use less of to benefit the environment. 

Reusable washable wipes are excellent and arguably do a better job. Reusable makeup pads are kinder to the skin, and cloth cleaning products are easy to wash and last a long time. I wouldn't be able to go without my washable cloths that I use for cleaning my children’s sticky faces, fingers and little spills. Give them a try and if you love them, tell your friends to make the swap! 

If you need to use disposable wipes, pop them in a bin afterwards to avoid blockages. Even wipes that are labelled as 'flushable' don’t break up properly in our sewers.  

Person putting a wet wipe in the bin
Put wet wipes in the bin to prevent blockages and pollutions.
Reusable wipes
Choose reusable alternatives over wet wipes to help reduce plastic waste.

Make a difference together 

We're all feeling a desire to play our part in protecting the environment and it doesn't have to be complicated or overwhelming - I'm a firm believer that small actions add up to make a big impact overall.  

To protect the water environment, all you need to remember is: use less hot water use, reduce water wastage and wipe out wipes! If you’re looking for more ways to use less water, find out more on our saving water page.  

Written by

Aimee Shaw

Head of Customer Insight and Participation