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Kids’ Water section

Water Wise Challenge

When the astronaut Neil Armstrong looked at the earth from the moon in 1969, it looked all blue. Water covers over 75% of the Earth’s surface and is without doubt the most valuable of all the Earth's natural resources. There are over 7 billion people in the world with 80 million people being added each year. Worldwide, the consumption of water is doubling every 20 years – more than twice the rate of increase in population.

If you're keen to learn more about water take a look at the following sections:

  1. Water usage, status and quality
  2. Learn how much water we use in the home
  3. No cost ways to save water in the home

1. Water usage, status and quality:

Importance of Conserving Water

About one third of the world's population already live in countries considered to be 'water stressed' - that is, where consumption exceeds 10% of total supply. If present trends continue, two out of every three people on Earth will live in that condition by 2025.

Although water shortages are a rare occurrence here to date, increased demand coupled with the impacts of climate change are likely to result in shortages in the coming years.

A number of European Union Countries charge the domestic sector for the water they use. Water here is free and water usage stands at about 145 litres per person per day, which is above the European average. As the  population grows over the coming years water conservation will become increasingly important.

Line drawing of light bulb

Did you know? The oceans hold 97% of the world’s water. 2% is frozen in the polar ice caps. The remaining 1% not only provides all the water in the atmosphere, but also all the groundwater, lakes and rivers. We depend on the Water Cycle to recycle this 1% to meet all our needs.

The Water Cycle:

The water cycle is the process which involves the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. It provides a continuous supply of fresh water in the environment and consists of 5 main processes:

  1. Evaporation - water is heated and changes from liquid to gas (water vapour)
  2. Condensation - vapour rises and condenses into tiny droplets to form clouds
  3. Precipitation - clouds become too heavy and cause rain to fall
  4. Absorption - the earth absorbs the water
  5. Runoff - when the ground has absorbed water to full capacity, excess water from rain, hail, etc flows over land and eventually flows into streams, rivers, lakes and makes its way back to the sea.

Water: Importance and uses

Girl drinking water

Biologically and chemically clean pure water is essential for a healthy life. Water makes up anywhere between 60% and 70% of the human body and it is essential for basic bodily functions. We require about 2 litres of water per day to maintain adequate hydration, and we can only survive a few days without water. There are a wide variety of beneficial uses of water including drinking and domestic use, uses in industry, agriculture, fishing and recreational uses such as swimming. Our drinking water comes from two sources: from groundwater in the form of underground aquifers and surface water from streams, rivers and lakes. Groundwater is pumped to the earth's surface from wells. This water usually requires little treatment before drinking because it has already been filtered through sand and rock as it settles into the earth. Surface water requires filtration to remove any silt, sand or organic matter collected by the water as it moved from one area to another. Chemicals are added to speed up the process that nature uses to clean water.

Water Contamination

Water contamination

Contamination due to human activities can result in a decline in  water quality. Water pollution arises from different sources in different areas. Sources of water pollution in urban areas include outflows from sewage treatment and industrial plants and run-off from roads. In rural areas sources include fertilisers and animal wastes arising from agricultural activity. Groundwater contamination can also arise in rural areas as a result of inadequate percolation at septic tanks of poorly maintained or constructed septic tanks. Fortunately for us our water quality standards are improving year on year and, at the tap, our water was 99.8% in 2011 (as reported by Northern Ireland Water).

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Did you know? In 1889 the UK government invested in sanitation infrastructure and there was a 15 year increase in life expectancy over the next four decades!

2. Learn more about how much water we use in our homes:

See how many gallons per year a dripping tap equates to: 

  • 30 drops per hour = 1008 gallons per year
  • 60 drops per hour = 2016 gallons per year
  • 90 drops per hour = 3036 gallons per year
  • 120 drops per hour = 4044 gallons per year

Approximate Water Usage in the Home:

Water usage table

Line drawing of light bulb

Did you know? A regular shower will use about 35 litres of water in 5 mins. But be aware a power shower will use over 125 litres in the same time.

3. Learn about no cost ways to conserve water at home

General Tips:

  • Reduce your water consumption by changing your water-use habits. Check out some ideas in this link for water conservation in the home.
  • Make sure to turn taps off properly.
  • Repair leaky plumbing fixtures, such as taps and toilets. A dripping tap can waste 30 - 200 litres a day, while a continuously dribbling tap can waste up to 600 litres per day.
  • Retrofit your home with more efficient water-using fixtures and products - how about a ‘Hippo Bag’ for your toilet cistern - this can save 3 litres of water per flush.
  • Fit eco-shower heads in the bathroom and save up to 50% of the water used, which means you also save money as you use less hot water .
  • Fit aerators or flow-control valves onto your taps. Standard taps can run up to 15 - 20 litres a minute. Aerated taps can reduce water flow by 50%, they cause less splashing and the water supplied is still as effective for washing.
  • Rainwater can be collected and used instead of tap water.
  • Recycle your grey water: use water butts.
  • Use environmentally safe cleaning products to reduce the impact of chemicals on our waters.
  • Don’t pour paint, antifreeze or other chemicals down a drain – dispose of unwanted chemicals, solvents and oils responsibly.

Hippo Bag Instructions

Hippo bags are a simple and proven water saving device to help conserve water in toilet cisterns. Installing a Hippo couldn’t be easier and will save up to three litres of water per flush. Simply place the device in the water underneath your cistern float. When the toilet is flushed, the water confined within the Hippo’s polyethylene bag is saved. Hippo bags should only be used in toilet cisterns with a 9 litre flush or greater (usually pre-1993). If you have a toilet cistern with a 7-9 litre flush (usually installed 1993-1999), you should use a Save-a-Flush bag. These typically save 1 litre per flush. Dual flush and slimline toilets are already water efficient and do not need any type of cistern device.

Conserving water in the garden

Conserving water in the garden

A water butt is a barrel-like tank used for collecting rainwater from your roof's drainpipes after rain. This water can then be used for watering plants in your garden.

A water butt can be connected to a downpipe so that it collects rainwater from your gutters. If you are using a downpipe, you will also need an overflow pipe or a rain diverter to redirect water into the butt. Once it's full, water flows down the drainpipe. A gutter filter will also keep out unwanted debris. To fit a diverter or an overflow pipe, your butt will need a hole in the side, and to fit it directly to a downpipe it will need a hole in the lid. Butts either already have these holes provided or have a guide as to where to cut a hole.

Tips on fitting a water butt

  • Install the water butt only on a firm, flat surface that is strong enough to carry the weight when filled with water
  • Empty the water butt when there is a risk of freezing
  • If the water butt is accessible by children, secure the lid to the barrel
  • If necessary, drill the hole for the tap only at the marked location
  • Consider a water butt stand allowing the water to be dispensed directly into a watering can.

Virtual water, what is it?

Virtual water is the water 'embedded' in commodities. Producing goods and services requires water; the water used to produce agricultural or industrial products is called the virtual water of the product. The global volume of virtual water flows related to the international trade in commodities is 1,600 Km³ per year. About 80% of these virtual water flows relate to the trade in agricultural products, while the remainder is related to industrial product trade.

  • The production of 1 Kg of rice requires 3,000 litres of water
  • The production of 1 Kg of maize requires 900 litres of water
  • The production of 1 Kg of wheat requires 1,350 litres of water
  • The production of 1 Kg of beef requires 16,000 litres of water

Compare water we use with virtual water embedded in food. For example one burger bun is equal to 30 baths. Looking at our water use within the context of both direct and indirect water uses to produce all the goods and services consumed by an individual, a community or even a school determines your water footprint. See www.waterfootprint.org.

Eco World is a fun game and educational resource brought to you by the Consumer Council. It urges young people to learn about how we can all make small changes today that will help protect our world for tomorrow, and covers the topic of water, as well as the other three Eco-Home themes and much much more!