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Water-wasting women: stop shaving your legs in the shower

Woman in shower

Women are the new water-wasting culprits, according to Thames Water’s report that we’re wasting 50 billion litres a year. Is this kind of naming and shaming really going to encourage us to use less water, though?

Last weekend I was at a festival. One of the highlights of the weekend was the fact there were showers (and not just the out-of-the-sky sort).

Obviously I had to queue for my 15-minute shower session. But in the queue we got into discussions about how long people take in the shower. Questions were raised, such as whether men naturally take less time than women (no); do you take longer if you have more hair (yes).

Water down the drain

So I was interested to see a new water-saving enemy has been announced. Hosepipe users, people who brush their teeth with the tap running and swimming pool owners have now been joined by… women who shave their legs in the shower.

According to Thames Water, women are wasting 50 billion litres of water per year. While that’s a lot of money, is it really fair of Thames Water to be targeting women (or even men who shave in the shower) in this way? After all, according to Ofwat, the water regulator, in 2009/10, Thames Water lost 669.9 million litres of water a day just through leaks.

That’s 244.5 billion litres a year – nearly five times as much as the estimated loss through women shaving their legs in the shower. In England and Wales the industry total was 14,593.6 million litres a day for that year.

Are water meters the answer?

We all know water companies desperately need to invest in the infrastructure of our water system to prevent these leaks. After all, a lot of the system is old. But this investment is – as with energy, rail and so on – going to cost us, the consumer. Water companies will continue to increase their prices to cover that investment, with many increasing above the rate of inflation. So maybe they have a point.

After all, if you have a water meter, you pay for what you use. A Conversation back in February questioned whether a water meter in every house would help people be more conscious about water wastage. I think the jury’s still out on that one, though if you’re in a larger property or are a family you could be worse off with a water meter. But then, does having a fixed cost per year make you less conscious of how much you’re using?

Will the water waste message work?

There are other ways of cutting your costs. Water companies have metered tariffs for low-income households, and there are rumours of single person household discounts, like those for council tax. If you think you might be eligible for a discount get in touch with your water company and ask them, as these don’t seem to be very well advertised.

We all know we need to cut down on how much water we use. But will this new message work? After all, despite the many years of nagging about turning off the tap when cleaning out teeth, many of us don’t and 120 billion litres of water a year still go down the plughole just through brushing our teeth.

But even with discounts, if your supply is metered you can save even more by using less. So what are your top tips for saving water? Will this research make any difference to your behaviour, or is it all just water off a ducks back (sorry)?

Sophie Gilbert says:
7 September 2011

I’m really not sure how to take all this. Has anyone done research on how much water we women are supposed to waste on shaving our armpits and bikini lines? Until then we won’t have the full picture. And what about drag queens and competitive cyclists?

Apart from that, charging people exactly for what they use where possible is the best idea, just like with gas and electricity, petrol. And water companies, get your act together, and only start naming and shaming the rest of us when you’ve taken care of all the leaks in the land!

Alice says:
7 September 2011

I agree Sophie! Last Christmas I had to listen to what sounded like Niagra Falls outside my bedroom for 3 whole weeks- it was in fact a burst pipe in the yard of an abandoned house nearby. I phoned Thames Water a few times to alert them, and though they did eventually sort the problem out, I dread to think how much water was wasted

The main thing that strikes me when reading this is… how long do most people take to shave their legs?! Presumably Thames Water is comparing this to the amount of water wasted if you do it in the bath? If so, I reckon I’m speedy enough that it still amounts to a saving of water compared to a bath, which I generally like to fill all the way up to the top.

I’m quite tempted to work this out now, which is very nerdy.

Hairy Leg Lover says:
7 September 2011

Am I the only man who appreciates women who actually leave their legs naturally hairy? Am I allowed to say that?

Thames Water, Pot, Kettle, Black. What a bunch of hypocrites.

As if women need something else to worry about, especially the ones with the lovely long legs 🙂

Excellent – I’m going to see my leg waxing efforts as the eco-friendly option from now on – and I can feel twice as good because the evil water wasting shaving-in-the-shower demon in our house is my husband. Hurrah!

Worrying about using water when shaving legs – oh for heavens sake, get a life!

Why don’t we all just top ourselves right now, then we wouldn’t “waste” any more resources. Or stop having children. Some perspective is needed.

Oh for goodness sake this world is becoming stupid. They wont be happy until we’re all back living in caves, eating the soil and doing nothing at all. If people like Thames Water were in charge of the human race we’d still be living in caves about now.

Women shave their legs in the first place because for some reason society dictates that they should be smooth and hairless all over, even though this is not natural. If women don’t shave they get ridiculed. Then we get smacked on the wrist for using water to shave. Shouldn’t men stop “wasting” water shaving their faces too? Then men could all have Santa beards and women could have hairy legs…

I always find the idea of looking at water as if it is a finite resource like fuel, rather strange. the hydrological cycle is taught to most school children. I think when people talk about wasting they are really taking about is overpopulation, reducing costs/increasing profits to water companies, and concern about water distribution.

I agree! The notion that all we need to do to “save the planet” is turn off a dripping tap or not let it run whilst we clean our teeth is nonsense and a complete diversion from the real issues we face.

However, there is a hidden cost to this waste if you think of all the energy used in extracting, purifying and distributing the public water supply and then treating the sewage. And wasting hot water is even worse in terms of energy wastage.

So when you turn on the tap, think of the energy being used to replenish it too.

Maybe the title should be Women, stop wasting your legs in the shower…oops, can I say that!…too late….men should not waste their legs in the shower either.

If Which wishes to be taken as a serious organisation it should not have trivial items such as this under Home and Energy. I would recommend that this item is deleted and “Energy” is separated from “Home” since many of the home items have no relationship with energy matters.

Hello b.martin – each of our categories are a catch-all for all related matters. And as such, the topic of people wasting water both fits under Home and it is also an Energy issue.

Moreover, Which? Conversation and its tone is different to what you might expect from Which? – often we cover more light-hearted issues in a more humorous way. The goal is to get our readers engaged and to start a debate. This does not mean we are stepping back from our more serious campaigning goals, which are still very much present on Which? Convo. Thanks.