Heat and drought plague Austria’s nature. According to a study by the furniture giant IKEA, we use our water far too wastefully.
Northern Italy and the US are by no means the only regions currently struggling with extreme drought. Even in Austria, which is otherwise so blessed with water, it has not rained at all or only sporadically in many places in the last few weeks. The Zicksee in Burgenland has already completely evaporated, fish are already dying in the warm Neusiedl lake and around Wiener Neustadt the inhabitants around groundwater lakes will soon be left dry – two meters are already missing from the normal level.
You would think us Austrians would think of saving water in such a situation. A study by the Swedish furniture giant IKEA among domestic private households has now revealed some shocking facts about our relationship with precious water.
“Water of cardinal importance”
According to their own statements, the study results presented by IKEA and Marketagent on 9 August 2022 are the first to provide concrete insights into water saving behavior in Austria’s private households – even though a large part of the total consumption in Austria goes back to households. .
The Ministry of Agriculture states that 24 percent of the total water demand in Austria consists of uses by private households and public facilities, commercial, industrial and agricultural companies and self-sufficient households that are also supplied from the public water supply.
“The subject of water is of the utmost importance as the central basis of all life. We want to support everyone to use water responsibly – especially at home, within our own four walls,” explains Florian Thalheimer, Sustainability Manager at IKEA Austria, the background to the study.
Every third person does not know where tap water comes from
The data collected reflects a low level of awareness and an almost indifferent use of water as a resource in the private sphere: More than three quarters (76.1 percent) of the Austrian population do not know how much water is in their household is not used and almost a third (30.5 percent) do not know where the tap water in their own household comes from.
“It is certainly not our intention to expose ignorance – on the contrary. By publishing the study results, we want to give important impetus to us as a society to develop towards a more conscious approach to our water consumption. Most of we are currently unaware of what we all do with our water every day,” says Thalheimer.
Daily water consumption is underestimated
Only 15.7 percent of Austrians rate their daily water consumption per capita as realistic. The majority (65.4 percent) believe that each person uses less than 50 liters of water per day. With an average estimate of 61 liters per capita per day, Austrians believe they use less than half as much water as they actually do.
The median value of all information corresponds to a value of only 30 liters per day. However, the calculated average for direct water consumption for cooking, drinking, toileting, washing, watering and cleaning is 130 liters per capita and day.
About 22 percent (28.6 liters) of this is used for showering and bathing, and 25 percent (32.5 liters) for flushing the toilet. Outside (swimming pool, plants, etc.) 14 percent (18.2 liters) is consumed. 27 percent (35.1 liters) flows through the taps in the bathroom, toilet and kitchen.
“Here you can see a big difference between the estimate of the local population and the actual water consumption,” sums up the study leader Lena Wittmann from Marketagent.
Drops quickly become 28 baths
More than 40 percent of those surveyed said they either had a drip faucet in their home in the past (34.4 percent) or even currently have one (5.9 percent). A similar picture emerges for defective toilet bowls: 36 percent stated that in the past there was already a toilet bowl in the household that did not stop properly after flushing and did not allow water to flow through. A total of 5 percent currently experience such a baking situation in their household.
“A dripping faucet or a defective toilet bowl is not a problem in the short term. But I advise everyone to fix such problems as soon as possible. A single drip faucet spills 8 milliliters of water per minute – that’s about 16 drops – 4,200 liters per year or 28 full baths,” says Thalheimer.
Modern shower technology
About the same amount can be saved by choosing an economical shower head: modern shower heads have a potential saving of about 40 percent of the water volume with the same water pressure and the same comfort and skin experience.
The technology is also affordable for everyone, notes Thalheimer and refers to their own range, where such economical shower heads can also be found. “Calculated over a year, such water-saving fittings in the shower could save each person in Austria 4,176 liters of water or 28 full baths.”
Shower or bath?
According to the IKEA study, a classic misconception when it comes to water consumption is the assumption that showering saves more water than bathing.
Read more: Gas crisis – Minister wants us to stop bathing
A full bath holds around 150 liters of water. A 10-minute shower with a conventional shower head uses almost the same amount of water (between 12 and 15 liters per minute). More than two-thirds of those surveyed believe that a shower saves water compared to a bath. But: There is no meaningful saving potential in the bath – half full is only half as good.
Money flows unnecessarily into the Gulli
The saving potential of water-saving appliances with aerators is only realistically assessed by about a quarter of those surveyed: This saving potential is about 40 percent. The cost savings for an average household with four people and a consumption of about 10,000 liters of water per year (about 55 full baths) is between 15 and 30 euros (depending on the region, the price per liter of water in Austria is between 0 .0015 and .003 euro).
The fact that it is nowhere near the average of EUR 237 per year expected by those surveyed is due to the extremely low cost of Austrian tap water in a global comparison. “Those who save water do so mainly for the environment and only secondarily for their wallets,” says Thalheimer.
30 liters of drinking water ends up in the toilet
One of the biggest water guzzlers in private households is the toilet – 25 percent of the drinking water we use goes straight into the sewer system. With each flush, we use between 3 and 14 liters of water at the push of a button – depending on the type and age of the cistern. This knowledge is also widely anchored: 10.5 liters of water per flush is the average estimate of those surveyed.
Self-rating: Austrians give themselves a “good”
Against all these backgrounds, the study also examined how Austrians rate themselves when it comes to water conservation. On average, the respondents gave themselves the grade “good” or an average value of 2.3 on a school grade scale.
When asked what is already done in the household to save water, 77 percent say that they load their washing machines optimally, 75.9 percent avoid running taps if possible and a third (33.5 percent) use rainwater to water plants lead.
Only a quarter (24.7 per cent) use water-saving fittings, 31.4 per cent of taps are optimally adjusted and just under a third (32.2 per cent) use water-saving shower heads. 3.5 percent state that they do not take any measures to save water.
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“We see that there are definitely efforts to save water in everyday life. In addition to saving tips, there are also cheap products that effectively reduce water consumption,” continues Thalheimer. IKEA also has a solution for this in its range: “With our spray nozzles […] you save up to 95 percent water in mist mode – the nozzle doses the water flow in such a way that water and energy for hot water preparation are saved without compromising hand hygiene.”
The future of water in Austria
The total water volume in Austria will not change significantly in the next few years, but the intensity, the distribution over the course of the year and the physical condition of the water will worry us more and more, according to experts.
Read more: Ministry recommends scraping off residue instead of flushing
When asked whether a water shortage could be expected in Austria in the next 10 years, 46.7 percent of those surveyed said it was very likely or fairly likely. Experts predict an increasing demand for water in Austria until 2050 – mainly caused by further population growth and climate change – but they give a moderate clarity: Only in the worst-case scenario calculations will it be the case in some regions of Austria that more water will be consumed as the region has groundwater.
However, individual regions will suffer from local droughts that can have serious impacts on nature and people. “Austria is an enormously water-rich country with excellent drinking water quality. However, climate change is also changing the distribution of water resources in this country and there are regions that temporarily suffer from water shortages. We can all make a positive contribution with small investments and simple changes in behavior when when it comes to water conservation, big things still move,” concludes the furniture chain manager.