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Water use patterns for Europe revealed by kitchen sink study

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Over half of all the water used in the kitchens of Europe is used for dishwashing, according to a recent survey.The survey also found that people who live alone use double the amount of water per person than a four or five-person household.

Detailed data for Europe’s water consumption is limited, although average consumption data is available which is why this survey was performed by Paul Richter, standardization and customer satisfaction manager at AB Electrolux, and Rainer Stamminger, professor of appliance technology at the University of Bonn.

Small water meters and webcams were installed at 81 kitchen sinks across 4 European countries – 21 in Germany, and 20 in each of the UK, Sweden and Italy which then recorded each time the tap was turned on, for what purpose the water was used and how much, over a 2-week period.

The researchers were able to identify specific uses of the water for 96 percent of the 25,000 observations. In each country, dishwashing accounted for at least half of the daily water consumption per person, and averaged 58 percent across the four countries. Cleaning, cooking and drinking accounted for around 10-15 percent each, except in Italy, where drinking water consumed just 2 percent, which may be linked to perceptions of tap water’s quality. Washing hands and “other” accounted for the remaining 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

The results showed as expected, that single occupancy households consumed more water per person than larger households. There was a minimal difference between 1 – 2 person households, but this grew larger with household size.

There was an interesting difference in consumption between countries too. The daily water consumption was highest in Italy where the average person used over twice as much water (23.6 l) in the kitchen as the average person in Germany (11 l). The reason for this could be that Italian households use more water in cooking and rinse their dishes considerably before putting them into the dishwasher, and  cleaned more than observed in other countries. Average daily water consumption in the U.K. was 19.8 l, and for Sweden the figure was 21 l.

It was hard to generalize water usage patterns as they varied such a large amount between countries, but the researchers concluded that dishwashing consumes by far the majority of the water, and that significant reductions are crucial to water conservation.

The study was published in the May 2012 issue of the journal Water Resources Management.



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