Water for What?

Something like 150 litres per person per day is the average amount of water used in the home.  Bathing and flushing the loo are major uses but there is also laundry, washing up, watering the garden, cooking and of course drinking!

Over the years water use has steadily increased.  Back in the day when the bath was a tub in front of the fire and laundry was done by hand, you can probably imagine how the processes got through a lot less water.  Now it’s all too easy to run a bath or switch on the washing machine, with the water piped directly to where it is needed.

But 150 litres per person per day is not the final total.  That is only the water used in the home.  If you add all the other uses of water, it averages out at about 860 litres per person per day.  But what are these other uses?

The biggest water users are power stations and you usually find them located on major rivers, lakes or the coast because they need such a large water supply.  Fortunately, most of their water use is for cooling, so the water doesn’t need to be cleaned and treated in the same way as the water supply to homes.  Also, the water is often used and then put back into the river/lake/sea, just at a slightly warmer temperature.

Compared to power stations and home use, farming uses relatively little water.  Again, the water doesn’t need to be cleaned or treated, though salty water can’t be used.  The problem is that it is mainly needed during hot weather and in the drier areas of central, southern and eastern England: the time and the place that water resources are most stretched. 

Industry as a whole uses a similar amount of water to farming.  It might be used in the actual manufacturing process or simply be used for cleaning.  Food processing, for example, needs a high-quality water supply.

So, although we only directly use a small proportion of the 860 litres per person per day, we do use the electricity, eat the food that was grown and buy factory products.  We might only use about 150 litres per person per day in the home but we are part of the reason for using, on average, a whole lot more.

So how do we keep all these needs supplied?  Join me again next week.