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16 ways to save water

Saving water can save you money – and it helps nature too. As we move into drier summer weather, it's crucial not to waste this precious resource

Water is one of our most precious resources – all life depends on it. It can sometimes seem like we have endless supplies of the stuff that comes out of our taps – but we shouldn't take water for granted.

Water companies have a responsibility to provide plentiful supplies of clean water, for example by investing in reservoirs, fixing leaks and preventing sewage pollution in rivers.

But we can all act as individuals, too, to minimise waste of this precious natural resource. And if you're on a water meter it makes obvious sense to save as much as possible – otherwise it's just money down the drain.

Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

Hand holding a hose

Photo by Kyle Barr on Unsplash

Even if you're not on a meter, taking steps to avoid water waste is still crucial. In periods of drought, using more than we need can lead to hosepipe bans – and even a lack of drinking water.

Using more water than necessary has an environmental impact too, as clean water takes energy to produce.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to reduce water use in homes, gardens and community spaces. Here are some ideas.

Prioritise food crops. During very dry spells, it may be necessary to water some of the plants in your garden. While established trees, shrubs and perennials can survive for some time without watering, there's a risk that vegetable plants will succumb to diseases – and a lack of water can severely affect the harvest.

Onions growing in a vegetable garden

Soak the soil. A good soaking once every week or so is the best way to water the vegetable garden. This encourages the roots to head deep into the soil – whereas a light sprinkling every day just keeps the roots close to the surface, making the plants even more vulnerable to drying out. However, recently planted plants and seedlings – as well as anything growing in a container, especially tomatoes and peppers – will need more frequent watering.

Time it right. Water first thing in the morning or during early evening, when the sun isn't so hot and less water will evaporate from the surface of the soil. Always aim the water at the base of the plant, avoiding the foliage, to get the water down into the roots.

Use mulch. Adding a generous layer of organic matter, such as compost, after watering can prevent moisture from evaporating. This is particularly useful if you grow vegetables in raised beds. For ornamental flower beds, a mulch of bark clippings can also be effective.

Put container plants on a saucer. This helps to minimise water wastage and should mean you can water containers less often. Some greenhouse plants, such as cucumbers, particularly benefit from this – and you can sit larger pots inside a water-tight seed tray or an old washing-up bowl.

Hand holding compost
Lavender flower

Grow drought-resistant plants. Thyme, rosemary, lavender, hebe, verbena bonariensis and sedum spectabile are all plants that cope well in dry conditions. They're all also fantastic nectar-rich plants for pollinators!

Install a water butt. This collects rainwater from the roof of your house, shed or greenhouse. If possible, position it near the plants that will need watering most. Rainwater is better than treated tap water for many plants – and it's important to try to use rainwater for topping up ponds, as tap water can affect the delicate ecosystem in a wildlife pond.

Don't water lawns. Grass is extremely hardy, and should bounce back quickly once cooler and wetter conditions return. Sprinklers should be avoided – they can use the same amount of water in just one hour that a family uses in a whole day.

Long grass with shorter grass paths

Mow less often. Very short grass tends to dry out more quickly in hot weather, whereas longer grass copes much better with drought conditions. Grass that's left to grow longer tends to remain green, while short-mown areas end up looking parched and dry.

Let the grass grow. Leaving the mowing altogether – even just in small areas – can provide vital shelter and shade for all sorts of creatures. Bumblebees nest in long grass, and frogs, toads and newts use it as a cool place to rest in hot weather. And the wildflowers that often appear in longer grass provide nectar for pollinating insects such as moths, bees and butterflies.

Use a toilet cistern bag or block. Sometimes called a Water Hippo, these dramatically reduce the quantity of water being flushed away. It could save between one and three litres for every flush.

Take a shower. A five-minute shower uses around 40 litres of water, but filling a bath uses twice that amount. Encourage family members not to linger too long in the shower by using a shower timer. This is usually set for four minutes, which should be enough time to get clean! Or listen to the radio while in the shower (on a waterproof or water-safe device, of course) and try to turn the water off after one or two songs.

Install an aerating shower head device. These reduce the amount of water being used. You can get fittings for your kitchen and bathroom taps too.

Running tap with hands holding a bar of soap

Turn taps off. A running tap can use up to nine litres of water per minute – so that's 18 litres lost if you leave a tap running while cleaning your teeth. And wash fruit and veg in a bowl of water, rather than rinsing under a running tap. The water in the bowl can then be used to water plants.

Use grey water. Grey water is water that's been used already, for example for washing up or bathing. This can be used to water plants – collect in a watering can and use within 24 hours. It's best not to use grey water to irrigate edible crops – and if you add products such as washing-up liquid or bubble bath, choose natural, plant-based, biodegradable brands such as *Faith in Nature.

Save water, save money. Saving water in the home can have a huge impact on your energy bills. For example, according to, a family of four could save £165 a year on energy bills (and a further £100 off their water bill if on a meter) just by keeping showers to four minutes. Fixing leaky pipes promptly, and only running washing machines and dishwashers when full, can also save water and money.

Some water companies offer free water-saving devices such as cistern blocks, tap fittings and shower timers. Visit your water company's website to find out more.

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Green water droplet with green trees in background

Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash

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Little Green Space June 2023