How to save energy, water and money with one minute

One Change: Showering for one minute less could save 1,800l of water a year

 

When I was growing up, showers always seemed to be going cold – usually just as you were putting shampoo in your hair.

These days, water heaters are a lot more sophisticated and nobody has to worry about leaving the immersion on, thanks to thermostats and mobile-enabled heating apps, while many homes have switched to electric showers. All of which makes it easier to take long and lovely hot showers – but it comes at an environmental cost. 

Showers use an average of 10 litres of water per minute. Most of us spend roughly between 7-10 minutes in the shower, so that adds up to more than 70 litres – less than a bath might use, but still an awful lot. And certainly a lot more than some people in less privileged parts of the world might use – even in a day.

In this country, we have a strange and often conflicted relationship with water – from the debates over water charges to our long-standing obsession with rainfall – and we seem to treat it like there is a never-ending supply.

We have just had one of the driest few months on record – exacerbated by more people at home using water – and are now heading into a phase of drought and shortages.

Consider the journey that the water in your shower has taken before arriving to your tap – from being collected in a reservoir, treated in a water plant to make it potable, then pumped all the way to your home.

In the Netherlands, which has a population of about 17 million, it has been estimated that an average reduction of one minute per shower would save 31.25 million cubic metres of water. That translates as one person saving roughly over 1,800 litres a year – or 1.5 per cent of an average Irish person’s yearly water usage – just by getting out of the shower a bit faster.  

When it comes to showers and their environmental impact, you also have to consider the energy used for heating water.

One study found that people generally underestimate the energy needed to heat up water for a shower – which can account for up to 25 per cent of household’s entire energy use. It’s also worth remembering that cranking up the temperature while you’re in the shower increases the energy costs. (As a side note, some dermatologists advise that shorter, cooler showers are also better for your skin.)

In addition to cutting down on the time you spend in the shower, there’s other simple ways to reduce water usage at home: make sure to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, always run full loads on your dishwasher and washing machine, or keep a jug of water in the fridge to avoid running the tap to get a cool glass. (You’ll get plenty of other ideas at water.ie/conserve.)

This precious natural resource needs to be looked after, particularly when you consider that 2.1 billion people globally do not even have access to clean, safe drinking water.

@SorchaHamilton

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