How has COVID-19 impacted water consumption in Europe (including Malta) and what can one do to better manage this consumption?

By May 15, 2020 October 19th, 2020 Uncategorized

Several studies and reports, in various countries, show that the average water consumption per person has increased and during these months dominated by the COVID-19 effect. Our household water consumption is higher than normal. Due to this novel virus and the social distancing measures, all family members are spending more time at home and consequently more activities are taking place at home, so water consumption will reflect additional usage. Increased usage could include hand washing, toilet flushing, running water for any other household requirements and any other activities which we would tend to do more frequently to fill in the day with more activities. Undeniably, COVID-19 has dominated our lives and thoughts.

 

Over the past weeks, drastic measures have been taken almost worldwide, as an effort to contain the COVID-19 spreading. In Malta, the first three cases of this virus were reported on 7th March. Eventually, the increase in the number of new infections, led the Government to increasingly adopt restrictive measures, including those limiting social activities and public life.

 

Lengthier hand washing became the number one tip underlined by the Health Authorities, for preventing the spread of this new virus. Proper hand washing not only reduces the spread of COVID-19, but it can prevent the spread of other viral illnesses such as cold and flu. As expected, this situation leads to more usage and an increase in water consumption in Maltese households. However, there are also means how one can control the flow of water from taps and thereby conserving it better. The easiest measure is ensuring that an aerator is installed at the end of water taps.  An aerator by blowing air into the water flow reduces the real volume of water flowing out of the tap, whilst maintaining the feeling of water flow.  The most efficient aerators can reduce actual water flow by around 90%, hence more than compensating for the increased use for hand washing.

 

 

Washing our hands well and stopping human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus

 

Unquestionably, good hand hygiene protects you and those around you. The main message of World Water Day 2020, which was celebrated on 22nd March, stressed the importance of washing our hands well, to keep ourselves and our communities safe in the quest to fight and slow down the transmission of COVID-19. The provision of safe water, sanitation and adequate hygiene (WASH) is fundamental and vital to protect human health during this sensitive time of COVID-19. Safeguarding good and consistently applied WASH, environmental cleaning and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces and health-care facilities will further help to stop human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

 

Hand washing represents a very small proportion of domestic water use. Since the outbreak of this virus in Malta, the first analyses of water usage locally, showed an increase in water demand by households, an expected effect since people are presently spending more time at home and are performing more domestic activities. Moreover, kids are not attending school due to the closure mandated by governments in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 

This effect is not specific to Malta.  For instance, according to an analysis of water consumption pattern change in the city of Karlsruhe, in Germany during the current health crisis situation, it has been observed how water consumption changed after restrictive measures were applied.

 

Karlsruhe is a region with more than 400.000 inhabitants in the state of Baden-Württemberg hence in terms of water usage and consumption, it can easily be compared to Malta (Maltese population around 494,000 people), especially when analysing the present and extraordinary scenario we are all experiencing. Unquestionably, the closure of schools and non-essential activities, the increase in home working and social restrictions and the fact that we are spending more time at home, has contributed to this significant change in consumption patters.

 

Higher consumption of water due to COVID-19 measures

 

As expected, a change in the actual water consumption and consumption patterns has been seen after the school closure and social restrictions. But whilst water usage in Malta, like in all countries, has increased, there are still ways, which we can adopt to use water more efficiently whilst, keep ourselves safe.

 

We can track our daily usage water patterns to try and limit excessive and unnecessary water use, mostly from activities, which are extraneous to our personal hygiene. Lets not permit this unusual time to increase our daily physical and mental stress, but instead to help us understand that a little care go a long way toward minimizing waste and conserve water. Lets try to initiate one good habit every day in our daily routine, to save water. A little care by each and every one of us, today, will help preserve our resources, for tomorrow.

 

A little bit together. Saves a lot for each other.

 

Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering plants or cleaning. Also, lets help our children appreciate and value the significance of water conservation.

 

Tips of how we can sustain water during COVID-19 times

 

Water is valuable and even small savings make a difference. Let’s start saving water by breaking a bad habit and lets use this particular challenging time, to activate the necessary change.

 

At home, we can collect and reuse water after cooking. Once this has cooled, you can use it for gardening purposes. Alternatively, if you are boiling vegetables, use this water to start a soup. Another great way to save water in your kitchen is to keep a jug next to the kitchen-tap, to collect any water that you run when waiting for the tap to heat up. Eventually, you can use this to water your plants at home or in the garden. When hand-washing dishes, never run water continuously and always turn taps off tightly so they do not drip.

 

Moreover, wash dishes in a partially filled sink and then rinse them using the spray attachment on your tap. Wash only full loads in your washing machine and use the shortest cycle possible for washing your clothes. Additionally, use the shortest cycle possible for washing clothes, and use the “suds-saver” feature if your machine has one. Also, a quick iron or hanging it up will clean any shirt that you’ve been wearing for work rather than throwing it in the wash. Likewise, when refreshing your pet’s water bowl, use the old water on houseplants rather than pouring it down the drain.

 

In the bathroom, during this stressful period, you can choose to take a quick shower, rather than a bath. If you keep it short, you will save water. You can always keep track of your time whilst in the bath, by putting your favourite four-minute song, and try to finish your shower before the song ends. Also, while in the bathroom:

 

  • Turn the water off, when you are washing and shampooing your body. Furthermore, place a bucket in the shower, so that at the time of washing, you can collect any excess water. Afterwards you can use this water to flush your toilet.
  • Turn your water off while you are brushing your teeth and use short bursts of water for cleaning your brush, as this saves about 80% of the water normally used.
  • Whilst shaving, avoid leaving the tap running and instead use a small bowl of water.
  • Only flush the 3 P’s – Pee, Poo and Paper. Also, You can decrease water usage by 40% to 50% by installing low-flush toilets.

 

Additionally, during this particular time, we might not drive our car as much therefore we can refrain from washing our vehicle. Outside, we can try to water during the cool part of the day, in the morning or evening and don’t water on windy days. Besides, we can also use our time at home to plan about how to embellish our gardens with local plants, which require less water.

 

 

Water is a limited resource. We can still conserve water during COVID-19. Water conservation requires forethought and effort, but every little bit helps. Let’s be positive and never think that what we do does not matter. We can all make changes in our lifestyles to reduce our water usage, and this particular time can be our best opportunity to start off new and good habits, which will help us conserve and save water. The trick is making water conservation a way of life—not just something we think about once in a while.

 

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