How much water does a washing machine use?
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the average UK household uses around 330 litres per day, which equates to 140 litres per capita but, in general, people greatly underestimate their water usage. WaterWise surveyed people in the UK to ask how much water they used in a typical day and found that many respondents didn’t know (37%) or estimated well below the average (24% estimated under 50 litres per day; 22% estimated between 50-99 litres per day).
Of a typical household’s water usage, clothes washing represents about 10% of the total, so based on the figures above, that amounts to approximately 33 litres per day on average. Buying a water-efficient washing machine is therefore an easy and effective way to reduce your water consumption.
The new energy labels for washing machines are required to show the weighted water consumption per cycle, given in litres, allowing you to easily compare the water usage of different models. Larger models are likely to use more water than smaller models, so don’t buy bigger than needed.
Why we need to save water
For those of us who live in Britain and are well-acquainted with its glorious dampness, the idea that we need to save water may seem strange. Yet, according to WaterWise, a UK NGO, reducing our water consumption is important because climate change, combined with population growth and changes in lifestyle, is putting increasing pressure on our water supplies.
We are already seeing the effects of climate change in the UK, with the ten warmest years on record having occurred since 2002. The UK Met Office’s projections depict a more extreme weather system: summers are likely to be hotter and drier, but with heavy rainfall also more likely. By 2070, it predicts that winter will be between 1°C and 4.5°C warmer and up to 30% wetter, while summer will be between 1 and 6°C warmer and up to 60% drier.
According to a recent report by the UK Environment Agency, if no action is taken between 2025 and 2050 over 3.4 billion extra litres of water per day will be needed for the public water supply to address the future pressures of climate change and a growing population.
These pressures are faced by the whole of the UK, though water scarcity is most serious in the south-east, with the Environment Agency estimating that 50% of the additional need in 2025-50 will come from this region alone.
The Environment Agency recommends a number of measures to reduce stress on our future water supply, many of which are structural, such as reducing leakage and developing new supplies.
It also highlights the importance of reducing personal consumption: “If each person reduced the amount of water they use, it would go a long way to meeting future needs. Reducing consumption is not about stopping people using water, but about reducing waste and using water wisely.”