13 best ways to save water

Why do we need to save water?

97.5% of the world’s water is locked in seas and oceans, too salty for human use. And most of the remaining 2.5% is in the ice caps.

So we humans depend on the tiny bit available as fresh water – an essential natural resource for life.

But we don't just use water for drinking. We wash in it, clean with it, and use it to produce everything from clothing to food. Crop production – including feed for livestock and biofuels – is putting a great strain on fresh water supplies.

Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire, England

Save water, save our planet

Our water comes from rivers, lakes and sources like the Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire (pictured).

Climate breakdown is one of the biggest drivers of water shortages and is expected to heap even more pressure on our depleting supplies. People in England are facing shortages by 2050 unless we save water fast – according to the UK Environment Agency.

Read on for ways to take action and save our water supplies.

Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire, England
Tap wasting water

1. Turn off the taps

Don't let your water consumption run out of control. Save 6 litres of water a minute by turning off your tap while you brush your teeth. Fix leaky taps too – and stop what could be 60 litres of water going straight down the drain every week.

Tap wasting water
Food and drink on outdoor table

2. Quality and seasonal eating

Rearing animals for meat and dairy and harvesting crops like avocado at a large and unsustainable scale is incredibly water-intensive. By cutting down on meat and dairy and eating seasonal vegetables you'll be helping to conserve water.

You'll also be helping to protect the climate. The meat and dairy industries are big contributors to global warming.

Food and drink on outdoor table

3. Shower with less

Every minute you spend in a power shower uses up to 17 litres of water. Set a timer on your phone to keep your showers short, sweet and water-saving.

Switching to an efficient shower head will allow you to lather up in less water, which means you'll save water and cut your bills.

shower head with water
Holding overflowing washing basket at laundrette
ceramic frog sitting on tiny toilet surrounded by toilet roll

5. Get a low-flush toilet

The average UK household flushes the loo 5,000 times per year. Modern dual-flush systems save huge amounts of water. They use just 6 litres – or 4 with a reduced flush – much less than the 13 litres for each old-style single flush.

If you can't invest in a new loo, get a water-saving bag for your old-style toilet.

ceramic frog sitting on tiny toilet surrounded by toilet roll
Old red metal kettle with small red metal cup

6. Boil what you need

Save water, money and energy by only boiling as many cups of water as you need.

Old red metal kettle with small red metal cup

multicoloured food in a bamboo steamer

7. Steam your veggies

Steam your food to cut water usage and retain more of the natural nutrients.

If you do boil, try using the leftover water as a tasty stock for soups. Or let it cool and use it to water plants.

multicoloured food in a bamboo steamer
pile of wasted food
Watering can in overgrown garden

9. Time your gardening

Water outdoor plants in the early morning or at the end of the day to stop water immediately evaporating in sunlight and heat. Water the soil so that the liquid goes straight to the roots, where it’s needed.

In a heatwave, animals need water too. Instead of watering your lawn, leave out a water-filled container, like a casserole dish, for birds to drink from and wash. Thirsty bees and other insects will need a saucer or bowl with water and stones in it.

Watering can in overgrown garden

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Blue house with arty, surreal water collection system of funnels and pipes running down the side

10. Catch rainwater

Installing water butts saves up to 5,000 litres of water a year. And your plants will thank you for rainwater rather than treated tap water.

You can also cut water use by 33% by watering plants manually instead of using automatic sprinklers.

Blue house with arty, surreal water collection system of funnels and pipes running down the side
washing up in a sink

11. No more washing up

Got a dishwasher? Fill it up completely each time you run it and you'll use less water than you would doing the dishes by hand. Yes, even if you're using a washing-up bowl. What better excuse to go and have a nice sit down?

Find out more about the most water- and energy-efficient ways to run your appliances from the Energy Saving Trust.

washing up in a sink
A burst pipe with water

12. Be plumbing prepared

Regularly check your kitchen pipes and the dishwasher hose for slow leaks.

Find out where your household stop valve is and make sure that you can turn it on and off. You'll thank us if you ever have a burst pipe, because you'll be able to cut off the flow before it floods the house.

Find a contact number for your water supplier, so that if you find a leak you can let them know and stop water being wasted.

A burst pipe with water
cracked riverbed in Sri Lanka

13. Don't fund the water-grabbers

Some companies and investors that buy up land around the world contribute to water scarcity and pollution. They sometimes deny local people access to water, pollute watercourses or exhaust supplies. This can affect the ability of local communities to farm and access safe drinking water. This is known as "watergrabbing".

Make sure you know where your savings or pension are invested. And check how the companies that make the products you use treat local water sources. That way you'll know you're not supporting water wastage and contamination.

cracked riverbed in Sri Lanka

Put pressure on government

Around the world, governments can also help to save fresh water and prevent water pollution by:

  • measuring water use and setting targets to reduce it
  • obliging large companies to measure and manage the amount of resources they use
  • encouraging lower water diets – including reduced meat consumption
  • supporting industry to make water-intensive products last longer
  • providing consumers with the tools to understand the water impacts of the things they buy
  • making laws to increase water recycling
  • preventing people and companies from polluting waterways by making laws against using toxic chemicals which could pollute our soils.

Join a Climate Action group and help drive change locally and nationally.

UK parliament at night, over the river Thames