Conserving water has been a hot topic in Australia for quite some time (12 years of drought will do that). With news that the city of Adelaide is soon to run out of water, some of us Queenslander’s recently being on level 6 water restrictions and talk of drinking recycled water, I thought it would be a good time to write about saving water in the home.
(Update Jan 2014: After all the floods of the previous 3 years, it feels like water is no longer an issue. However, many parts of the country are already experiencing drought conditions and it’s predicted to get worse. Water security is a major issue in Australia and always will be).
Below are just some of the ideas that you can use to save water.
Saving water in the bathroom
1. In the shower.
A regular shower head uses between 15 and 20 litres of water a minute. If your average shower is 10 minutes you will use between 150 – 200 litres of water each day or 54,750 – 73,000 litres a year. By just installing a water saver shower head which uses 9 litres per minute, you could save between 21,900 and 51,100 litres per year per person.
By reducing your showering time to around 4 minutes you could save a further 19,710 litres per person per year. Shower to your favourite tune (unless it’s MaCarther Park) – an average song goes for about 3-4 minutes.
Collect the shower water in a bucket while you’re waiting for the water to heat (and while showering). Use this water to flush the toilet, run the washing machine, water the garden, clean the car, wash the floor, or anything that requires water.
Lather up with the water off and shave your legs before you take a shower.
Alternatively, taking a soak in the tub uses up less water than a long, hot shower (although a short shower uses less water than a bath).
2. Taps and toilets.
Turn the tap off while you brush your teeth. Also, put a little water in the basin to rinse your razor, rather than rinse under running water.
Fix leaky taps and running toilet cisterns. Add a few drops of food colouring to your cistern. If colour runs into the bowl before you flush, you have a leaky cistern that needs fixing.
20% of water use in the home is from flushing the toilet. If you have a dual cistern, use the half flush. If you’re in the market for a new one, ensure that you get a dual flush. In some parts of Australia, this is becoming mandatory for new homes.
Or you could consider my father’s approach: "If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down."
Rather than using your toilet as a waste disposal by flushing tissues, cigarette butts etc., use a bin.
Saving water in the kitchen
If you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, get one with an efficient water and energy rating.
To save water and energy, use the dishwasher only when it’s full. It’s actually more water efficient to use a dishwasher, but if you hand wash, you only need a few inches of water, not a full sink.
2. Washing dishes by hand.
Use a sink of water to rinse dishes rather than rinsing them under a running tap. Or if you don’t have a two bowl sink, use a small basin instead. Alternatively, I usually start with only an inch or two of water when I wash up and rinse with hot water as I wash. By the time I get to the pots and pans, I have a half full sink of water, enough for the bigger items.
Speaking of kitchen taps, install an aerator on the kitchen tap. This will reduce the water usage by about 50%.
Use only enough water to cover your vegies when you cook. After cooking, use this water as a weak stock, boiling to kill weeds in the garden, or cold to water your plants.
Steaming vegetables also uses very little water.
Saving water in the laundry
If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, get the most water (and energy) efficient washing machine machine that you can afford. Use the WELS water rating sticker to assess the most water efficient machine.
Wash when you have a full load most of the time.
If you aren’t washing a full load, adjust the water level in your washing machine to match the size of your load. Some newer machines do this automatically.
Fill your machine with the water from the shower. Collect the grey water from your wash to use on the garden. See grey-water grey water do’s and don’ts before doing this.
Saving water outside and around the home
1. Consider installing a water tank.
Check state laws as this option is becoming mandatory for new homes. Also some state and local councils offer a rebate on the purchase of the water tank. Not long ago, you could get a double rebate in SEQLD making water tanks practically free here.
2. Wash your car in the rain.
My father-in-law can be found without fail washing his car every time it rains. If practical, wash your car on the grass and turn the hose of while you’re soaping up the car. Or better yet, use recycled water from the shower.
2. In the garden.
Use grey water to water the garden; don’t over water your plants (but water long, deep and less often) and use mulch profusely to reduce water evaporation from the soil before your plants get a chance to have a drink. Consider water wise plants, such as Australian natives and succulents that require less watering.
Sweep paths rather than hose them down. A broom is also much better than those noisy leaf blowers.
Some state and local governments offer rebates on purchase such as water saving showerheads, water tanks, water efficient washing machines etc. Check out your state government and local council websites for information on saving water, local environmental initiatives and rebates for water and energy efficient purchases.
Water security is an important issue in our country, one that gets lip service during the dry times and then forgotten during the wet. While most of the water usage in Australia is for agriculture, it’s still important for each household to reduce water usage. Every little bit counts.