InSite | How can new homes be made more water efficient?

How can new homes be made more water efficient?

According to the UN, the availability of water is becoming less predictable. Higher temperatures and extreme weather are projected to affect the availability and distribution of rainfall, river flows and groundwater, and to deteriorate water quality. In the UK, water resources are also under threat from the effects of climate change. The demand for water is increasing as our population grows, more homes are built and we continue to make convenient lifestyle choices such as relying on water-intensive appliances. We all need to work towards reducing our water usage. Making some informed choices when building homes and how we live in them can make a big difference to our water consumption.


What solutions can I implement to ensure new homes are water efficient?


The following products and solutions can help reduce water usage in homes:


  • Water-efficient showerheads:
    Baths and showers are accountable for the highest usage of water consumption in the home, at around 34%. Power showers use 13 litres per minute, mixer showers use 8 litres and electric showers use 5 litres per minute. Aerated showerheads and low flow showerheads can help to reduce the amount of water used by around 40-50%, while still maintaining normal pressure.


  • Dual-flush toilets:
    As opposed to the old style flush systems which use 13 litres per flush, dual-flush toilets typically use 4-6 litres of water.


  • Greywater/rainwater harvesting:
    In areas where there is insufficient surface water or where groundwater is particularly inaccessible but there is an abundance of rainwater, rainwater harvesting can be effective. Much more efficient and cost effective when installed during construction, greywater or rainwater harvesting systems can be used to flush toilets or for other non-potable uses.


  • Water meters:
    New homes need to be fitted with a water meter, this will ensure that water bills for new homeowners will be based on the amount of water they use rather than a fixed rate.


  • Water-efficient dishwashers and washing machines:
    The Environment Agency tells us that dishwashers and washing machines account for over 16% of domestic water consumption. When sourcing washing machines the best models will typically use less than 7.5 litres of water per kilogram. Some have half load cycles or intelligent monitoring which only use as much water as is needed. Dishwashers should offer eco or economy settings to help with water conservation. They should be of a size that suits the property/household capacity – apartments can get away with much smaller, slimline dishwashers.


  • Garden design:
    The type of landscaping and vegetation used in the gardens of new homes can have an impact on water efficiency. For example, bark and mulch in the garden will help to reduce evaporation by up to 75%. In addition, drought-resistant bedding and perennial plants can offer resilience in the summer months. Water butts can be used to collect and store rainwater to water plants rather than using the mains water. Rainwater is also better for plants as it often has a lower pH.

    For more information, please see the ‘Water efficiency calculator for new dwellings’ in Part G of the Building Regulations (Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency).


How can I prevent leaks in homes?


Building watertight homes will help with water efficiency and reduce bills for homeowners.


About a quarter of leaks are found on the underground supply pipes so factor in robust water networks to tackle potential leaks.


If fixtures and fittings aren’t properly installed or are of poor quality, leaks can occur inside the home. Use approved fittings; all fittings in the UK should comply with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations. This will ensure that homeowners aren’t subjected to dripping taps and showers (a tap dripping once a second can add £15 to a water bill) or leaking toilets (a leak from the cistern to the pan can waste up to 400 litres of water a day). Loose connections on washing machines and dishwashers can also contribute to leaks. And of course, insulating pipes and fittings under floors, in lofts and on outside taps will prevent bursts and leaks during winter.


“With population growth, changing weather patterns including hotter summers and drier winters, water is becoming increasingly vulnerable to scarcity, even in the UK. By 2050, the amount of water available could be reduced by 10-15%, with some rivers seeing 50%-80% less water during the summer months.”

– Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency


Did you know?


  • The Environment Agency averages the amount of water used per person per day in the UK at 150 litres. According to Part G of the Building Regulations (Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency), the maximum allowable consumption of potable water in new dwellings is 125 litres per person per day

  • Growing cotton and dyeing a single pair of jeans and a t-shirt can use up to 20,000 litres of water

  • There is less than 1% accessible freshwater on our planet

  • If every household in the UK reduced their time in the shower by one minute per day, £215 million would be saved on our collective bills every year

  • Agriculture uses around 70% of freshwater. For every litre of milk produced, a cow needs to drink at least three litres of water

  • Brushing your teeth while running the tap can waste around six litres of water per minute


Please note, the above is intended as general water conservation guidance only.

World Bank

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