A pair of hands cupping a flow of water.

17 ways to reduce water consumption

How much water do you use? Many of us use much more than we need, while others suffer from water scarcity on a regular basis. The good news is that there are several simple things you can do to reduce water consumption. By using less water, you save money while also helping future generations and the planet. Truly a win-win!

In Sweden we have a saying—“många bäckar små gör en stor å” or “many small streams make a big river”. By this we mean that many small contributions can lead to a larger whole that can have a great impact.

“If one billion customers reduce their water use by as little as 10 litres per day we are looking at a savings of 10 million cubic metres per day and 3,65 billion cubic metres per year in the markets where we are represented. This is 1,5 times more than what Sweden, with 10 million inhabitants, uses per year. Small changes may have a big impact”, says Viktoria Granström, Water Initiative project leader at IKEA.

How much is 10 litres in our day-to-day life then? Running water for two minutes from a regular tap means 10 litres down the drain, and avoiding flushing the toilet can save over 6 litres per flush.

Are you ready to save some water? Here are 17 simple ideas on how to treat water as the limited and precious resource it is:

1. Don’t let water run down the drain! Collect and reuse where possible. For instance, place a bucket in your shower and while waiting for the water to turn hot – collect the cold. Collect rainwater and use for gardening.

2. Perform your daily grooming routine without the running water soundtrack. Because if you brush your teeth twice a day, that wasted water really adds up. Running water for one minute from a regular tap means up to 12 litres down the drain.

3. Maintain and repair all dripping taps and other leakages in your home. Find leaks by checking the water meter before and after a 2 hour period of no water use.

4. Insulate water pipes to get hot water faster, thus saving both energy, water and money.

5. Use biodegradable cleaning agents for cleaning, and avoid chemical pollution of toilets, showers, washers and drains.

6. If it’s yellow it can mellow. Avoiding flushes can save over 6 litres of water per flush – and a lot more if you have an older toilet.

7. Ask yourself if your clothes really need to be washed, perhaps you can hang them outside to refresh for a while? Airing semi-clean clothes will not only save water but also reduce wear and tear so they last longer.

8. Whatever the tag says, most clothes don’t actually need hot water to get clean – and certainly not for every wash. So dial down the heat.

9. Wait until you have a full load before you do the laundry to save both water and money.

10. Showers use less water than baths – but not if you stand under them for ages! Shortening your shower to 3 minutes (compared to the average shower of 8 minutes) reduces your water consumption by up to 50 litres a day.

11. Don’t run the tap to get cold water – refrigerate some!

12. Do your part by not sending cooking oil down the drain. Clean oily pans with paper to avoid polluting the domestic sewage system.

13. Doing dishes under a running tap wastes a lot of water. This can be reduced by using a bowl or sink with water.

14. A filled dishwasher is more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand. But don’t switch it on until it’s completely full, so you make the most of the energy and water used in every wash.

15. If you have an outdoor garden, water in the early morning to reduce evaporation from heat and wind. Plant native or drought-tolerant plants and group them based on water need.

16. Start a conversation about water conservation with a friend, colleague or neighbor to create awareness.

17. Report broken pipes or free-flowing wells to authorities.