US home water use up 21% daily during COVID-19 crisis

A report from the smart-water monitoring company Phyn chronicled the spike in US water use from pre-pandemic, Feb. 1, to midcrisis, April 30.

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The average US home used nearly 729 additional gallons of water in April than it did in February, according to a new study from water-monitoring company Phyn. This means usage was up 21% daily, as most Americans followed orders to work and shelter from home, in an effort to "flatten the curve" and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The spike in water use seems perfectly plausible, given that trends and shifts in water use were bound to change, as people spent more time at home. The Phyn study explains how the 24.3 gallons a day in the US is broken down:

  • 21% more sink use

  • 20% more toilet use

  • 16% more shower use 

  • 3% more washing-machine use

"We anticipated and were correct in the assumption we'd see a natural increase in sink and toilet use, as a result of just 'being home,'" said Ryan Kim, Phyn CEO. "On the flip side, we predicted fewer showers taken, as workers did not have to go into the office and kids weren't leaving for school."

The US state hardest hit by COVID-19, New York, also had the highest daily water consumption at the early epicenter of the pandemic: 28% used more at home (30.9 gallons) on a daily basis.

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Minnesota also had a big surge, from 135.1 in February to 168.6 (or a 25% rise) in April. The most populated state (40 million residents or 12% of the entire US), California, was at 141.7 in February, and up to 158 in April (or 11.5% rise). Meanwhile, the second-largest state, Texas, went from 129.5 to 145.5 gallons of water, from February to April.

Shifting bathroom habits

Phyn's study states "Water consumption patterns are following other notable trends of the new normal stay-at-home life." Families are no longer all rising and using peak morning consumption at 7 am, but two hours later, at 9 am. Despite the significantly later-in-the-morning start, the average day still wraps at the time it previously did. 

water-phyn-water-consumption.jpg

Image: Phyn

Usage patterns

The highest increase in water use happens in the afternoon, presumably when e-schoolers and their employed adult residents take a break, get up to use the restroom, wash their hands, or prep meals. 

20 seconds or sing "Happy Birthday" twice

If Americans have learned one thing from the COVID-19/infectious disease experts, whether it be Dr. Anthony Fauci of the US or Dr. Kim Woo-joo of Korea, it's that washing hands is an imperative, and likely a major contributor and self-protector. It's less surprising, then, when Phyn released the research around sink use. The average US household visited the sink in their home nearly 50 times daily in April, which is 10 more daily visits than in February. The report pointed out that sink visits don't always mean more handwashing. They're just spending more time at the sink. 

Phyn data shows families making more daily trips to the sink in April, 0-15 seconds in duration, 27 times daily (up from 22 in February). Slightly longer trips, which the report cites as within the CDC handwashing guidelines, at 15 to 25 seconds occur 13 times per day, up from 11 seconds in February.

water-chart-duration-at-sink.jpg

Image: Phyn

Down the commode

On the average, Americans are using their home bathrooms three times more in April than they did in February. To compare, New Yorkers are actually flushing their toilet five times more in April than they did in February.

No to B.O.

Whether Americans are finally addressing hoarding tendencies in their enforced time at home (thus working up a serious sweat from organizing/applying the philosophies of Marie Kondo), or adopting a regular fitness regime (bringing on the inherent resultant sweat), they're apparently showering more, three times a week as many times, as they did before the pandemic. 

As the average general water-use starts later in the day, so goes the American shower habits. Morning showers shifted to later in the morning. There was an increase in midday (noon to 4 pm) showers, where were up nearly 40%, as were evening (4 pm to 11 pm) showers, up a little more than 20% than in February.

"We don't generally think about water until the bill comes, but we're constantly using it throughout the day, every day," Kim explained. "It's logical increased home water usage is a byproduct of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and highlights the impact this virus has on the consumption of a precious and finite resource." 

water shower head in bathroom

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

May days

Looking ahead, Kim said: "We anticipate seasonal increases in water use for irrigation and expect to see a gradual offset of increased consumption, as cities continue to open up. People will spend less time at home and shift some water use to work, restaurants, and other businesses. What will be very interesting is to see and compare how quickly this shift happens based on the timing of, and adherence to, local restrictions."

Methodology

"We will continue to watch and publish this water consumption data as an ongoing effort as the pandemic continues to play out," Kim said. "We are eager to see if and how the easing of stay-at-home restrictions impacts residential water use and habits."

Phyn randomly selected 2,000 homes across the US that had Phyn Plus devices (monitors) installed and the data was set from Feb. 1 to April 30.

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Washing hands

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto