Covid-19 has increased the value we place on water finds WaterAid this World Water Day

22 March 2021
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World Water Day

WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

A third of Scots (31%) say the focus on hygiene during the pandemic has increased the value they place on water, with 3 in 4 (74%) now saying they appreciate having clean water at home, finds WaterAid. Over 2 in 5 (43%) take steps to reduce the amount of water they use, just under the UK national average of 49%, whilst 60% think everyone should try to use less water.

Meanwhile more than 1 in 4 (27%) in Scotland admit to leaving the tap running whilst brushing their teeth, which could collectively waste up to 29 million litres of water every single day – that’s enough to fill over 11 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

International charity WaterAid commissioned the survey to mark World Water Day on 22 March, which this year focuses on the value of water, asking 2,000 people across the UK about their perceptions of their water supply, whether Covid-19 has increased appreciation for the humble tap, and who is doing the most to conserve this precious resource.

Across the UK, over half (56%) of female respondents are aware about how much water they use and take steps to reduce it, whilst over 2 in 5 (42%) male respondents said the same.

Over a fifth of people in Scotland (22%) save water by not flushing the loo every time, compared with a third of all Brits. Nationally, older respondents seem a bit more relaxed about letting things ‘mellow if they’re yellow’ with over 2 in 5 (4%) over 55s trying to save water this way, whilst only 1 in 7 young people aged 16-24 said the same. 

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WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

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WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

“It's easy in Scotland to take clean water for granted, however the challenges of the past year have shown just how vital it is for health and hygiene.”

Shirley Campbell
Director for People and Organisational Development, Scottish Water

Almost a third (31%) of adults in the Scottish region ensure their appliances like dishwashers and washing machines are water-efficient, and perhaps unsurprisingly considering the weather, only 17% collect rainwater to use in their garden.

However, just over a third of people (37%) say they do not think about the amount of water they use. Scots ranked lowest in the UK for short showers, with just 1 in 6 (17%) spending the recommended time of four minutes, while 45% spend between 5 and 10 minutes. A fifth (20%) linger longer than 10 minutes, each using around 120 litres of water each time.

Shirley Campbell, Director for People and Organisational Development, said:

“It's easy in Scotland to take clean water for granted, however the challenges of the past year have shown just how vital it is for health and hygiene.

"Scottish Water key workers have ensured our customers have had reliable supplies during the pandemic, to help people stay safe and healthy, wash their hands, keep homes and hospitals clean and protect themselves against the spread of coronavirus.

“No matter where you live, no one should have to sacrifice their health or safety just for this basic human right. The awful reality for 785 million people around the world is that they don’t have clean water at home. That’s why Scottish Water is committed to supporting WaterAid’s work, specifically in Rwanda and Malawi, and around the world to reach communities who need it most.”

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, said:

“Those of us who can turn on the tap each and every day to get clean, safe water may not often stop to think about the enormous value that this service brings to our lives. Keeping us healthy, clean, enabling us to go to school and work, boosting our economy and enabling us to live in greater harmony with the wider environment – the benefits are life-changing.

“Over the last year with the threat of Covid-19 hanging over us all, the simple act of washing our hands with soap and water has brought home to many of us, how hard life is for the one in 10 people around the world who do not have clean water. Now we face the even greater challenge of battling climate change, which is making life even more difficult for those who don't know from one day to the next where they will find water. The UK water industry not only ensures that those of us in in the UK have a reliable, sustainable source of safe water; it also supports WaterAid to bring the same to millions of people around the world.”

UN World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis, and on the goal of achieving water and sanitation for all by 2030. Find out more at