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

The Consumer Council for Water has gone behind closed doors to explore households’ more unusual and often wasteful water habits.

Their Survey finds that almost 1 in 5 people in England and Wales run the tap to drown out the sound of them using the toilet; nearly half of the people said they had taken a shower after going to the loo for a ‘number two’, and almost a third of people run the shower longer than needed to ‘get some peace and quiet’.

CCW is using these findings to help shine a light on ways people can save water and play their part in easing pressure on water resources.

Almost 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. The results were eye-opening with almost a fifth of people in England and Wales (17%) admitting to running the bathroom tap to cover up the sound of them using the toilet. Nearly a third (29%) said they had run the shower for longer than they needed just to get some peace and quiet away from family or housemates.

Some of the most common habits included 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%) and 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.

Karen Gibbs, Senior Leader for the Environment at CCW, said: “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.”

Taking a shower immediately after a bath (21%), having three or more baths/showers a day (20%) and running the shower to get creases out of clothes (15%) were some of the less common behaviours people said they had displayed at least once.

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.

CCW’s website is packed with more tips and advice that can help households save water, energy and money around the home. Visit www.ccw.org.uk for more information.

The study builds on a previous survey conducted by Bristol Water and McCann back in 2019.

Delegates attending the Institute of Water Annual Conference 2023 on September 13th will also get to hear more great water saving tips directly from CCW in a live exclusive broadcast of their Waterfall: Water Saving Podcast.

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