We use water each and every day, often without thinking. Dan from our communications team wanted a better understanding of the role water played in his daily life. For a week, he logged every time he used water. Here’s what he discovered.
Why start a water diary?
As a Southern Water employee, I know saving water is important. Yet some of our habits around water are so routine, we do them without thinking.
To help me better understand how I use water, I decided to keep a water diary. For one week, I jotted down every time I used water. The results surprised me.
A few ground rules
At the start, I set some ground rules so I knew what to log:
• I would only record water I used directly from the public supply. I hoped this would provide a clear picture of my personal water consumption – rather than my water footprint, which would have included the water required to grow my food, produce my clothes and so on.
In action, this meant if I used water to make something myself, I logged it. But if someone else prepared food for me or I consumed a product containing water, I missed it off the log.
• I would try not to alter my behaviour. My aim was to observe how I used water. I wanted to avoid my awareness of my consumption shaping the results themselves.
• Although I share a home, I would only include my own water use – after all, others may be less thrilled to join my experiment.
Before the week began, I was already careful how much water I used.
I had adopted a few water-saving habits in my efforts to reach Target 100 – less than 100 litres per person, per day. I took shorter showers, sprinkled leftover cooking water on the houseplants and only filled the kettle with as much water as I needed.
Yet in terms of my overall water use, I was unsure what activities would feature most often in my log. I predicted water for cooking and drinking would feature regularly. As a runner, I also expected showers would be common entries.
Autopilot and a flush-busting discovery
My first shock was how automatic my water use was. On day one, I had to remind myself several times to log what I’d used. This made me realise how easily we take water for granted.
Logging each activity did make me more mindful of how much water I was using. This led to some surprising discoveries. I never expected to be pleased to see a urinal. Each time I walked into a toilet and spotted one, I saw the scenario as a win-win – less admin for me (no flush to log) and a convenient water-saving hack! Without consciously changing my behaviour, urinals saved nine flushes in a week (OK, I did log the savings).
Early in the week, I took a short run during my lunchbreak. Despite having showered in the morning, I washed again before returning to my desk (for the comfort of my colleagues).
Logging a second shower on my running days made me consider the impact my exercise had on my water consumption. I realised running in the morning would allow me to combine my pre-work and post-run showers into one. I’d adopted other water-saving habits, yet that single switch could save more water than any other lifestyle change I’d made.
As the days went on, I observed patterns in my water use. Monday to Friday, the first hour of my log was almost identical – give or take a cup of coffee. I noticed similar patterns at other times of day too – how often I drank, what times I washed up, how frequently I used the bathroom. I learnt I’m a creature of habit.
However, when the weekend arrived, the patterns changed. My morning routine was similar, but started later (no surprise there). I also spotted some entirely new activities entering the list. I used water for chores like rinsing some items for the recycling and cleaning the kitchen. However, it wasn’t all hard work – I filled the ice tray too ready for some cold beverages on Saturday night!
Drinking and dining
My caffeine fix was easy to detect. Including my morning cuppa, I averaged three and a half cups of tea or coffee a day – far fewer than I would have guessed. However, they were outnumbered by the average six cups of water I drank. Overall, preparing drinks made up 30% of the weekly activities in my log.
Compared to how many drinks I made, I was amazed how few times I used water for cooking. Aside from some pasta and noodle dishes, most meals required no water to prepare. Yet washing-up was a different story. I filled up a washing-up bowl twice as many times as I filled a pan.
By the end of the week, I was shocked to find only a third of my diary’s entries related to drinking or cooking. The other two thirds were made up of cleaning and hygiene-related tasks – ranging from washing myself and my clothes to cleaning my homeware or home itself.
In one week, I made over 200 entries in my water diary. Water played a part in my health and fitness. It allowed basic hygiene. It helped with the housework and enabled my leisure activities. As I looked over the log, I was reminded of a basic fact: without water, life as we know it would be impossible.
After a week monitoring my every water-related move, I was less likely to use water without realising. I also had a renewed pride in my work providing Water for Life.