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.
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.
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.
2. 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.
3. Save up your dirty clothes
Washing a full machine load of clothes uses less water and energy than 2 half-loads . This means lower bills as well.
4. Reduce food waste
It takes a lot of water to produce our cereal, fruit and other food.
More than half of the 7 million tonnes of food and drink UK households bin every year could be eaten. Wasting less food could save you £540 a year .
Get some handy advice from Love Food Hate Waste , or get inspired by high-tech solutions to food waste from around the world.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Get a low-flush toilet
The average UK household uses about 30% of all water used to flush the toilet. 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 .
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Boil what you need
Save water, money and energy by only boiling as many cups of water as you need.
11. 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.
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.
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.