A third of Brits say Covid-19 has increased the value they place on water and 3 in 5 say we should be more water savvy, finds WaterAid

Posted by
Lisa Martin
26 March 2021
WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

Nearly a third of Brits (31%) say the focus on hygiene during the pandemic has increased the value they place on water, with 3 in 4 (73%) now saying they appreciate having clean water at home, finds WaterAid. Just under half (49%) take steps to reduce the amount of water they use, whilst almost 3 in 5 (58%) think everyone should try to use less water. 

Meanwhile almost 1 in 5 (19%) Brits admit to leaving the tap running whilst brushing their teeth, which could collectively waste up to 246 million litres of water every single day – that’s enough to fill 98 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  
International charity WaterAid commissioned the survey to mark World Water Day this week on 22 March, which this year focuses on the value of water, asking 2,024 people across the UK about their perceptions of their water supply, whether Covid-19 has increased appreciation for the humble tap, and who is doing the most to conserve this precious resource. 
Over half (56%) of female respondents are aware about how much water they use and take steps to reduce it, whilst over 2 in 5 (42%) male respondents said the same.  
Nearly a third of us (30%) save water by not flushing the loo every time.  Older respondents seem a bit more relaxed about letting things ‘mellow if they’re yellow’ with over 2 in 5 (44%) over 55s trying to save water this way, whilst only 1 in 7 young people aged 16-24 said the same. There are differences between the sexes too, with 1 in 3 women are more likely to save water this way (34%) compared to only 1 in 4 (27%) of men.
Nationally, 2 out of 5 (38%) of adults ensure appliances like dishwashers and washing machines are water-efficient. Moving outside, over a quarter (27%) collect rainwater to use in their garden.
However, a quarter of people (25%) in the UK say they do not think about the amount of water they use; 15% wash dishes with running water while filling up the bowl and 5% run the dishwasher when it’s half-full. 

In the shower, just 1 in 5 (21%) Brits spend the recommended time of four minutes, while most people (41%) spend between five and ten minutes. A fifth (19%) linger longer than 10 minutes, each using around 120 litres of water each time. 

The UK water industry has been working hard throughout the pandemic to keep essential services running while also supporting WaterAid’s work to help get clean water to communities around the world.

 Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, said:  

“Those of us who can turn on the tap each and every day to get clean, safe water may not often stop to think about the enormous value that this service brings to our lives. Keeping us healthy, clean, enabling us to go to school and work, boosting our economy and enabling us to live in greater harmony with the wider environment – the benefits are life-changing.

“Over the last year with the threat of Covid-19 hanging over us all, the simple act of washing our hands with soap and water has brought home to many of us, how hard life is for the one in 10 people around the world who do not have clean water. Now we face the even greater challenge of battling climate change, which is making life even more difficult for those who don't know from one day to the next where they will find water. The UK water industry not only ensures that those of us in in the UK have a reliable, sustainable source of safe water; it also supports WaterAid to bring the same to millions of people around the world.” 

UN World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis, and on the goal of achieving water and sanitation for all by 2030. 


For more information, please contact: 

Lisa Martin, [email protected] Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552, or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors: 

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid.


World Water Day is an annual United Nations day, focusing on the importance of freshwater. It celebrates water and raises awareness of the 785 million people living without safe water close to home. Its focus is on taking action to tackle the global water crisis. Today, water security is under extreme pressure due to the worsening impacts of climate change, population growth, and increasing demands from agriculture and industry. 

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,024 General Consumer respondents in GB. The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. 

  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.[3]
  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[4]
  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's around 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[5]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[6]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[7]