Washing and toilet flushing

Shortage of water is emerging as a global crisis and many predict that the wars of the future will be fought over control over water. Water gets to us through a daunting network of pipes to households and Londoners use approximately 155 litres a day each, compared to the average for England of 149 litres, a third of which is used flushing the toilet. An American uses more than treble the amount, while the average African uses only 50 litres a day.5 In taking a 5-minute shower, we use about 35 litres of water, over twice this amount if we have a bath. Brushing our teeth while leaving the tap on uses 6 litres, a washing machine cycle 100 litres, while a tap left dripping for a day sees 4.1 litres of water go down the plughole. And water waste happens at the infrastructural as well as the individual level. In 2000 water consumption in London reached 866 billion litres, of which 50 per cent was delivered to households. The volume of water lost through leakages (239 billion litres or 28 per cent) was more than the total amount of water used by the commercial and industrial sectors (195 billion). In Manila some 58 per cent of water is lost to leaks or illegal tappings. In Istanbul vendor water is 10 times as expensive as the public rate; in Bombay it is 20 times as much. In developed countries an average of 15,000 litres of treated, safe drinking water is used to flush 35kg of faeces and 500 litres of urine per person per year.6

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