Reduce Water Consumption at Home
Published on SSWM (


Reduce Water Consumption at Home

Compiled by:
Molly Danielsson (MDML, cewas - international centre for water management services)

Humans use over half of all accessible water runoff. Of total water use less than 10% is used for domestic use. Households are the smallest consumers of water, but have a large potential impact. Users have the most influence at the household level and can experiment with strategies to develop water saving habits to implement outside of the home. Household water use is the largest growing sector (upwards of 80% over the next 25 years). Household water use is a testing ground for creating the strategies and social behaviours necessary for water use reduction in agriculture and industry.

In Out

Precipitation, Freshwater, Drinking Water, Greywater, Brownwater, Urine or Yellowwater, Treated Water

Blackwater,  Faecal Sludge,  Greywater,  Brownwater,  Urine or Yellowwater,  Faeces,  Excreta,  Organic Solid Waste, Treated Water


In the developed world, there is much room for improvement in household water use. According to the WHO, a minimum of 25 litres per day is required to meet basic needs. In the US, the per capita use is ten times that, averaging 262 litres per day (FOERCH 2007).

Reducing water consumption at home has many implications: Clearly, total water consumption is reduced. Thus, pressure on water sources is lowered and the development of larger water supply systems and facilities (e.g. water pumping devices, water distribution networks, etc.) become unnecessary. Additionally, less wastewater is generated requiring less costly wastewater collection, wastewater treatment facilities and energy.

However, saving water can also have unanticipated, adverse consequences. For example, if all the water saved by households is used for new development, water usage in total is increased and water scarcity exacerbated. This phenomenon is also referred to as the Jevons paradox.

The Difficulty of Tracking Domestic Water Use in Developing Countries

Adapted from FOERCH 2007

In developing countries, most water supplies are unmetered. In many instances, water standpipes or blocks of houses have never been fitted with meters, or they have been broken. In these cases, neither water departments nor individual end-users know how much water is being used. Effective billing cannot take place, and water demand management plans cannot be implemented effectively. The calibration, repair, and replacement of meters are important components of a water conservation strategy (see also water pricing). Furthermore, unlicensed use of water, water losses through broken pipes (see also leakage control), and water wastage can only be determined if appropriate metering takes place.

Behaviour Changes vs. Modifying Equipment

Installation of metering or monitoring equipment can be a crucial feedback to encourage water saving behaviour like turning off the tap when tooth brushing (see also water pricing). But creating incentives in terms of economic tools and standards and restrictions can be very difficult when the results are not felt by the user. Behaviour changes have the potential to halve household water consumption, however assuming rational actors, people will only change when it is to their benefit (FOERCH 2007) – see also awareness raising.

It is important to encourage end-users to install water-saving devices at the time of their investment, for example, when they build a house or factory. End-users will only do so if they are aware of the water-saving options and the benefits in terms of cost savings. End-users would need to be encouraged to invest in water-efficient fittings through the amendment of by-laws and codes that regulate building practices. However, the best tool in developed countries for reducing water consumption and waste is to increase the price of water for a high standard product (FOERCH 2007).

Strategies for Reducing Water Consumption at Home

Toilet User Modification (no Costs)

Toilet Modification (Time or Money Required)

 Low flow toilets and dual flush toilets save considerable amounts of water. Source: MOOSICORN RANCH (2010)

Low flow toilets and dual flush toilets save considerable amounts of water. Source: MOOSICORN RANCH (2010) 

Water Tap User Changes

Water Tap Modifications

Personal Washing User Modification

Shower Modifications

Clothes Washing User Changes

Purchase a More Efficient Clothes Washer

Water Tap User Modifications

Modify Water Taps

Identify and address leaks. Often, this is a good time to install lower flow aerated fixtures.

Low Water Dishwashing Strategies

‚óŹ     Only use the dishwasher when you have a full load or adjust the water-level control if the washer includes this option.

Change Dish Washing Equipment

Preparing Food with Less Water

Using Less Water Outside


 Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil. Drip irrigation lines direct water directly to where plants need it. Source: MENEZES (2008)

Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil. Drip irrigation lines direct water directly to where plants need it. Source: MENEZES (2008) 

In summer, lawn watering and other outdoor uses can account for up to 50% of home water use. Studies show that as much as half of this outdoor use is wasteful.

For further information regarding recycling and reusing water, check reuse and recharge tools.

Install Rain Barrels to Collect Rainwater for Reuse

For further information regarding rainwater recycling, check also urban and rural roof top rainwater harvesting or stormwater management. Almost half of water produced at the household level is washwater, also called greywater. Read more about greywater reuse and how it can serve to fertilise plants and crops in the reuse and recharge section. Learn more about wastewater and greywater reuse at home here.


Reducing household water use is most effective at reducing overall water use in developed nations where water consumption is quite large. An average person in the US uses 10 times the water used by an average person in dryland regions in Africa (FOERCH 2007)).

Yet, reducing household water use in developing nations can improve households’ ability to meet their needs, and greatly improve quality of life.




EARTH EASY (Editor) (n.y.): 25 ways to conserve water in the home and yard. Parksville: Earth easy. URL [Accessed: 07.05.2010].

FOERCH, W. (2007): Water Conservation. In: Encyclopaedia of Environment and Society, 1919-1922. URL [Accessed: 01.03.2012].

MOOSICORN RANCH (Editor) (2010): Low flow toilets and dual flush toilets save considerable amounts of water. Spokane WA: Moosicorn Ranch. URL [Accessed: 14.05.2012].

SAVE WATER ALLIANCE (Editor) (2005): Saving Water. Armadale: Save Water Alliance. URL [Accessed: 07.05.2010].

Water Guide (Editor) (2010): Water Saving Tips?. London: Water Guide. URL [Accessed: 12.08.2010].

WATER USE IT WISELY (Editor) (n.y.): Use It Wisely Campaign. Phoenix, AZ: Park & Co. URL [Accessed: 14.05.2012].

For further readings, case studies, awareness raising material, training material, important weblinks or the related powerpoint presentation, see