29 June 2019

Optimisation at Home

Author/Compiled by
Stefanie Keller (seecon international gmbh)


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Saving water means - in particular in drought-prone areas - to conserve more water for the environment, thus saving live. Source: socialearth.org (n.y.)
Saving water means - in particular in drought-prone areas - to conserve more water for the environment, thus saving live. Source: socialearth.org (n.y.)


Do you ignore dripping faucets, let the water run while brushing your teeth or run a half-filed wash machine?
In spite of the fact that in many parts of the world clean, running water is nonexistent or is extremely restricted, many people take water for guaranteed. Though, water has become an extremely scarce resource on this planet.

With clever water saving methods in your home you and, your community can contribute to use less water and benefice the environment.

Why is it important to optimise water use at household level?

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(Adapted from ALKHATIB & EDGERLY 2006; GDRC n.y.; EXTON 2009)

Water is one of the crucial factors for intellectual, social and economical development. Growing population, booming urbanisation, changing consumption habits, climate change and desertification leads to steadily growing pressure on natural water resources. With increasing pressure, costs for providing water to our homes, for food production and industry will escalate and “water conflict” or “upstream-downstream” problems will increase. 

Though, individual can contribute to minimise its own water-footprint. 

The availability of fresh water to you as a user depends on the quantity of rainfall, local hydrology and the geology in your region. 

Extracting more water than the natural system is able to regenerate, will lead to a lowering of the water table and can cause dramatic effects on water quality, future water supplies and agriculture. Furthermore, this depletion of water resources will have a damaging effect on wildlife and amenity value of the landscape. 

The short-sighted reaction in increased water consumption is to exploit further water resources (by construction more water reservoirs). In order to counteract the water scarcity in a long-term perspective, it is of prime importance to optimise water consumption more efficiently (GDRC n.y.). 

Water consumption can be optimised by conserving and recycling water and managing the available water in a sustainable way. This can be done By carrying out a couple of simple water saving methods in our homes. Conservation and reuse at the household level has a cumulative effect and will be of great significance to the community as a whole. Thus, every user has the responsibility to manage his water consumption and apply conservation and reuse techniques. Thereby he will preserve water sources and limit his personal environmental impact and the one of his community.

How to use water more efficiently in your home?

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The water amount we use is determined by the water equipment, how we manage that equipment and the optimisation of different water streams for different purposes in and around our home. However, together with the number of water and energy saving devices on the market, the consumer needs to gather information before making decisions about the features and claims (NIEMEYER 1997). This factsheets provides an overview of the most important water consumers at household level and gives some easy implementable water saving methods.

Water consumption at home. Source: ca.uky.edu (n.y.)
Water consumption at home. Source: ca.uky.edu (n.y.)



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(Adapted from CRD 2010; ECO WATER n.y.; SAVE WATER ALLIANCE 2005)

The largest water consumers (in developing countries) are the shower and toilets, accounting for about half of the water used in an average household (see figure above). Toilets need up to one third of the household water supply. By buying more water-efficient products applied in the bathroom, you can save money on water and electricity bills and support the environment. By using LINK: water-saving or dry toilets (e.g. low-flush, vacuum, dry or composting toilets), you not only significantly reduce your water consumption, but you also contribute to minimise the pollution of the used water.

How to save water in the shower?

  • Take showers instead of having baths.
  • Three star rated showerheads use no more than 9 litres of water per minute compared to the old style showerheads which used 15 – 20 litres per minute. If you have a shower for six minutes, a water efficient showerhead can save up to 50 litres of water for each shower or up to 20,000 litres/person/year.
  • Take shorter showers. Shave your legs before taking a shower. Use running shower water to rinse off.
  • Use a bucket to collect water while waiting for the shower to get hot.
  • Insulate hot water pipes. This avoids wasting water while waiting for hot water to flow through and saves energy.
  • Consider an instantaneous water heater if your existing water heater is located some distance to the bathroom


Saving water in the bath

  • Only fill the tub with as much water as needed. Use less for kids and pets.
  • Check the temperature as you fill. Adding extra water to get the correct temperature after the bath is already filled is wasteful.
  • Use the water after having a bath for your garden, or use it to wash your car. Check that soaps and detergents in the water will not harm garden plants.


Saving water using the toilet

  • Replace your old toilet with a low flow 6 litre per flush (lpf) model, a high efficiency 4.8 lpf model, or a dual 3/6 lpf model. Older toilet models can use 13 to 26 litres of water per flush. A family of four people can save up to 80,000 litres of water a year with a 6L toilet, and even more with a high efficiency model. That is a 20% reduction in household consumption.
  • Replace your old toilet with a dry toilet which does not use any water for flushing.
  • Replace your old toilet with a composting toilet which recycles faeces.
  • Replace your old toilet with a toilet which uses rainwater.
  • If you are unable to replace your water guzzling toilet, retrofit your toilet with toilet displacement devices.
  • If you cannot afford a new toilet, you can purchase small gadgets to decrease the volume used with each flush of an older style toilet.
  • Reduce the number of times you flush your toilet with multiple uses before flushing. Unnecessary flushing of the toilet can waste up to 1,000 litres of water per year.
  • Do not place plastic bottles or bricks in a toilet tank. This can interrupt the flushing mechanisms or flow of the water in the toilet, and can cause leaking.
  • Do not use the toilet as a garbage can. Tissues and other items are often flushed away instead of going into appropriate disposal containers.


For further information on water saving toilets, check also the toilet system chapter.


Saving water using the basin

  • A running tap uses about 16 litres of water per minute.
  • Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth. Wet your brush and use a glass for rinsing.
  • Do not rinse your razor under a running tap. Filling the basin with a little warm water is as effective and less wasteful.



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(Adapted from CRD 2010; SAVE WATER ALLIANCE 2005; University of Maryland)

The kitchen is another major consumer of water in the home, using around 10% of total household water consumption for cooking, cleaning, washing or drinking. A running kitchen tap can use around nine litres of water a minute. Most of the water ends up down the drain but with a little modification to traditional kitchen processes you can save hundreds of litres of water a year. The dishwasher is the highest consumer of water in the kitchen.

Saving water by washing dishes

  • Only use the dishwasher when you have a full load
  • Use the rinse-hold setting on the dishwasher, if it has one, rather than rinsing dishes under the tap.
  • When washing dishes by hand, do not rinse them under a running tap. If you have two sinks, fill the second one with rinsing water. If you have only one sink, stacks washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a pan of hot water.
  • Use washing up liquid sparingly as this will reduce the amount of rinsing required when washing dishes by hand.
  • When washing dishes by hand, do not wash or rinse with running water. Use tubs or plug the sink.
  • Capture excess water in a container while running the tap. This water can be used for your plants or pets.
  • Dishwashers use large volumes of water, about 60 litres of water per load. Operate automatic dishwashers at full capacity and/or set the water level for the size of your load.
  • If you are considering the purchase of a new dishwasher, look for one that is water and energy efficient.


Other Kitchen Tips

  • Compost kitchen wastes (organic matter) instead of using a sink garbage disposal system. Sink garbage disposal systems consume hundreds of litres of water each week to send matter down the drain, and increases the load for the water treatment facilities.
  • Catch running water whilst waiting for it to warm up. Use it to water plants, rinse dishes or wash fruit and vegetables.
  • Insulate hot water pipes. This avoids wasting water while waiting for hot water to flow through and saves energy.
  • Avoid keeping water running when washing fruits and vegetables. Washing them in a bowl conserves water.
  • Thaw frozen fruits and meats in the refrigerator or microwave rather than in running water.
  • Keep a covered bottle of water in the refrigerator to avoid running water at the faucet to get it cold for drinking.



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(Adapted from CRD 2010; SAVE WATER ALLIANCE 2005; EARTH EASY n.y.; SA WATER 2009)

Around 15-20% of all water consumed in the home is used in the laundry, making this room a high consumer of not only water but also energy and detergents. Washing machines use anywhere between 100 – 200 litres of water per load.

  • There are many inexpensive ways to save water in the laundry. One of the easiest is to install a water efficient washing machine.
  • Consider reusing greywater from the laundry on the garden.
  • Launder full loads when possible. Wash with a full load and you'll save 10 litres of water each wash.
  • If you have less than a full load, use the water-level control on your washing machine if you have that option.
  • Use the permanent press cycle sparingly: it can add an additional fill with cold water than can use an extra 10-20 gallons.
  • Turn the water supply to your washer off when not in use in case a hose leaks or breaks.
  • Avoid washing clothes unnecessarily. Wash clothes to remove soil, not wrinkles.
  • Use the sud-saver option, if your old machine has one, when you have several loads to wash.


Fixing leaks

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A lot of water is lost around the home due to leaking pipes and dripping taps. A slowly dripping tap can waste a couple of litres each hour, reaching almost 20,000 litres a year. That is the entire amount available each year to many people around the world!

  • Check first for dripping faucets and replace washers where necessary. Even if taps are turned off hard, they can still drip and this is a sure sign washers are going bad. It sounds amazing but a drip rate of one drop per second wastes 1,000 liters per month.
  • Toilets can also leak. It is easy to check this by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. The colour will appear in the bowl after about half an hour if you have a leak.
  • Check your home for leaks. Hidden water leaks can be wasting water without you even being aware of it. A good way to check for leaks is, if your property is metered, then read your water meter and do not use any water for a couple of hours and go back to check that the meter reads exactly the same. If it does not, there is a leak.


Pools and Spas

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Evaporation is a major cause of water loss from your swimming pool. It is important to remember that the evaporation rate is highest in the early evening as the air cools and the water remains warm. This can be reduced by covering the pool's surface.

Pool covers / Pool blankets

Pool covers are generally more expensive than blankets as they require a roller for storage, and take some effort to roll out and put away.


Tank to pool systems

Installing a rainwater tank is a great way to reduce the use of mains water in your swimming pool. Rainwater diverters are an inexpensive alternative to installing a tank.


Change pool behaviour

  • Concentrate on keeping water in the pool.
  • Discourage pool users from "bombing" and continually getting out and jumping back into the pool.
  • Drip dry on the top step so that water goes back into the pool.
  • If you need to top up, get those who use the pool to top up the water level with a bucket so they're conscious of the amount of water they've used.
  • Regularly check for leaks. Leaks can easily develop in the pool's membrane and piping. Even a small leak can waste 7000 litres per year.


Garage and drive away

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(Adapted from SAVE WATER ALLIANCE 2005)

Washing your car and cleaning your driveway are activities that traditionally used a lot of water. Here are some ways to reduce water consumption while still having a clean driveway and car.


Water restrictions in most areas have meant that many businesses and home owners are no longer permitted to hose down driveways, paths, concrete and paved areas. But there are alternative ways to keep these areas clean using minimal amounts of water or even no water at all. Use a broom, brush or rake to sweep and clean outdoor paths and paving instead of hosing them down with water.


Water saving for washing cars

  • Use a waterless car wash - there are now a number of these products available.
  • If water restrictions permit, wash cars, boats and other vehicles on the lawn (if practical) with a bucket not a running hose. Use a trigger nozzle or a positive shut-off nozzle infrequently for occasional rinsing sprays.
  • Use captured ‘warm-up’ water from inside the home or treated greywater to wash vehicles
  • Use a commercial car wash that recycles its wash water.


Greywater use

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Greywater is typically water from baths, showers, hand basins and washing machines. It does not include water from the toilet. Water from kitchen sinks and dishwashers is also technically greywater, however the high concentration of food wastes and chemicals mean that it is less suitable for re-use.

Using greywater may be the only solution for keeping gardens alive during periods of hot, dry weather. Greywater replaces the need to use mains water for watering gardens or lawns and can potentially save thousands of litres of drinking water a year.

Benefits of using greywater:

  • Decreases your water bills.
  • Reduces the amount of sewage discharged to the oceans or rivers.
  • Irrigates your garden during drought periods.
  • Can be used to keep gardens alive when water restrictions prevent the use of mains water.


For further information of the application of wastewater, check greywater towers and vertical gardens.

Rainwater collection

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Rainwater tanks, traditionally an icon of the Australian outback, are becoming a more common feature in urban communities, with around 17% of all households installing a tank on their property. More households need to purchase a rainwater tank if the community is to make a real difference to conserve rapidly depleting water supplies.

  • Using rainwater can reduce your water bills to a great extent.
  • Collecting rainwater allows you to be prepared for times of low rainfall, so you can still maintain your garden, especially if there are water restrictions in your area.
  • It reduces the load on stormwater systems because roof runoff is not flushed into the drains.
  • Using rainwater reduces the need to build more water storage dams, which may have to be situated in environmentally sensitive areas.


For further information regarding rainwater recycling, check also roof top rainwater harvesting in urban or rural areas.


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(Adapted from SAVE WATER ALLIANCE 2005; EARTH EASY n.y.; WATER GUIDE 2010)

In the summer, lawn watering and other outdoor uses can account for up to 50 percent of home water use. Studies show that as much as half of this outdoor use is wasteful.

  • Mulch your garden. Mulch is a layer of material spread on top of the soil to conserve moisture, discourage the growth of weeds and even out soil temperature - it can keep up to 70% more water in the soil
  • Beware of using green lawn clippings - they can pack down quite hard and become a barrier stopping water getting to the plants. Better to put them into the compost pile and let them break down
  • Add wetting agents to your garden, lawns and tub plants to keep water (and nutrients) in the soil
  • Do not overuse hoses or sprinklers in hot weather. A sprinkler can use as much water in an hour as a family of four will use in a day. Your lawn only really needs watering once a week and it is better to water in the morning when the temperature is lower and evaporation is less


For further information regarding recycling and reusing water, check reuse and recharge tools.

Library References

Water Saving Tips?

This animated site gives water saving tips for homes and gardens.

Water Guide (2010): Water Saving Tips?. London: Water Guide. [Accessed: 12.08.2010]
Further Readings

Every drop counts. Environmental sound technologies for urban and domestic water use efficiency

The focus of this book is efficient water use in urban and domestic environments and the context is decision making about sustainable development of human settlements.

UNEP (2008): Every drop counts. Environmental sound technologies for urban and domestic water use efficiency. Osaka: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). URL [Accessed: 06.05.2019]
Case Studies

Household Water Conservation

This paper gives an overview of the water use on household level in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the document contains some water saving advices.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY (2008): Household Water Conservation. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University URL [Accessed: 09.08.2010]
Training Material

Every Drop Counts

Presentation with 60 slides on key issues in water saving at household level, containing backgrounds of decision making (policies and criteria) and a number of environmentally sound technologies storage, supply, use, reuse & recycling.

UNEP ; TU DELFT (2008): Every Drop Counts. PowerPoint Presentation. Osaka & Delft: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and TU DELFT URL [Accessed: 06.05.2019]
Awareness Raising Material

The real value of water

This factsheet provides an insight how valuable water is nowadays and why it is important to use water more efficiently.

RWCC (2009): The real value of water. Wagga Wagga: Riverina Water County Council (RWCC). Factsheet F6 URL [Accessed: 06.05.2019] PDF

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