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Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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2.2 Reading tables

Tables provide a neat and concise way of displaying and comparing information that can be referred to quickly, without having to read through large sections of text.

If you look at Table 1 again, you can see some of the important features which are common to all tables of this type:

  • a title
  • a heading at the top of each column
  • the ‘volume’ heading includes the unit of the measurement (litres in this case), so the unit does not have to be repeated after each number in the column. Where appropriate, it is conventional to use ‘quantity/units’ in labelling the column headings in tables.
  • a source for the data that are displayed.
Table 1  Estimated daily domestic use of water per person in the UK
Use of waterVolume/litres
baths and showers, etc.50
flushing toilet37
clothes washing21
dish washing12
garden watering9
drinking and cooking6
car washing1
(Source: based on figures published by the Environment Agency, 2013)

Look at the data in Table 1. To discover the estimated amount of water used in washing clothes, for example, look down the first column to find the row that says ‘clothes washing’, and then read across this row to the number displayed, which is 21. But 21 what? The column heading makes it clear that the number means that 21 litres of water are used in washing clothes and the title of the table tells you that this 21 litres is the estimated amount of water used daily per person in the UK for washing clothes.

To practise reading the information in Table 1, answer the following questions.

Activity 3 Reading a table

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes
  • a.How much water, as an estimate, does each person in the UK use per day for baths and showers, etc.?
  • b.How much water does each person in the UK use each day in the home for flushing the toilet?
  • c.What does the number 6 in the third row from the bottom of the table mean?


  • a.The answer is 50 litres. Remember to include units with your answer, otherwise saying ‘50’ doesn’t make it clear that the amount is in litres – not gallons, pints or drops!
  • b.The number given in the second column of Table 1 on the same line as ‘flushing toilet’ is 37, and the units ‘litres’ are attached to this. So the average person uses 37 litres of water per day for this purpose.
  • c.The entry in the third row from the bottom of the first column of the table is ‘drinking and cooking’, so the number 6, together with the table title and the column heading, should tell you that the use of water for cooking and drinking in the home in the UK is equivalent to 6 litres per day for each person in the country.

Activity 4 Calculating personal water use

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

The Energy Saving Trust is a charitable foundation which provides advice to communities and households on how to use water and energy more sustainably.

  1. Use the Water/ energy calculator [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (press ctrl and click on link to open in a new window) on the Energy Saving Trust website to calculate how much water your household uses on a daily basis. The calculator automatically produces an estimate of the amount of water used per person per day.
  2. Compare your household’s per person estimated water use with the estimated average in Table 1, which is 150 litres a day. Do you use less or more water than average per day?

The calculator requires you to indicate your water supplier. This is purely to work out the cost of your water and so, if you would rather, you can choose any water provider.

For the next activity you will be asked about which devices or tools can save water and so please make a note of any water saving devices you are asked about while you complete the calculator questions.


The report produced will include a lot of information. You should look at the bar chart on the right hand-side, which will indicate your water consumption per day and compare it to the average.

In the case of my own household, each person uses 94 litres per day, which is much less than the average.