490 litres of water! Where did it all go?

We’re lucky in Vancouver to have some of the best drinking water in the world. Most of the world isn’t as lucky. Unfortunately, we take it for granted, probably because tap water is free. We buy imported water in plastic bottles, and then frivolously flush our pristine water down the drain. How twisted.

I read a report recently that said the average Canadian uses 326 litres per person per day. A shockingly high number that puts Canada second only to the United States. In British Columbia, we use even more water, with the average British Columbian consuming 490 litres per day! Most people’s reaction on hearing that number is to assume it must factor in industrial or commercial uses. Well, it doesn’t. If it did, it would be closer to 4,400 litres per day.

comparison of residential water usage

So, how is it possible that each of us consumes around 490 litres per day? It happens one flush at a time.

    Canadian residential water consumption

  1. 35% Showers and baths – biggest domestic user, but also extremely variable. A 10-minute shower with a standard shower head would take 200 litres. A 5-minute shower with a newer low-flow shower head would only consume 50 Litres.
  2. 30% Toilet flushingEach flush of an older toilet takes 15 litres. New low-flush toilets only consume 6 litres per flush. Multiply that by 5 trips and that could add up to 90 litres.
  3. 20% LaundryA top-loading washing machine consumes 150 litres per load. A front loading machine would consume closer to 80 litres per load.
  4. 10% Kitchen and LaundryA load of dishes in a dishwasher consumes about 40 litres of water. When hand-washing, a sink full of water is about 35 litres.
  5. 5% CleaningThis includes hand-washing and teeth brushing.

You’ll notice the above doesn’t include watering lawns, washing cars, filling hot tubs (if only I was so lucky). So, it doesn’t take long to add up to 490 litres if you have inefficient appliances and waste water. The good news is there is a lot we can do to reduce the amount of water we each consume. Low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, more efficient dishwashers, and front-loading washing machines can easily reduce consumption by 50%.

There are great tips on the Living Water Smart website, including:.

Posted as part of Blog Action Day 2010 – Water.

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