Recently our water provider installed a Water Meter stating that we could carry on paying the way we are on a fixed rate that but in the near future everyone will be charged for the amount of water they use.
After some research I discovered we are at risk of many, if not most, people being affected by water scarcity by 2050 if significant changes are not made. With Climate Change further putting a strain on many regions, making it difficult to ensure a sustainable food supply. Too much of our fresh water is wasted, polluted and unsustainable to manage*.
It made me feel bad as we are pretty Eco-conscious but I have to admit I hadn’t really looked into our water usage. Obviously by being more careful is not only going to save us money in the future but will go to help reduce problems with global warming. So what can we do to make sure we are more water smart?
The Main Areas of Water Wastage in the Home
There seems to be several areas where we all commonly use or waste too much water in the home, they are in the kitchen, bathroom and garden. Your local water provider may have further advice on saving water – and there are products you can purchase, and even obtain free of charge, to help with this.
The main advice is really to think about your water consumption and use a minimal amount as you really need. Also by heating less water it will mean that you will save money on gas, electric or oil as well as reducing carbon emissions. Using less water helps free up space in the sewer network which can help reduce the risk of flooding when we have heavy rainfall. Other than that make sure any leaks are fixed as quickly as possible.
We can all play our part – and not all these ideas will be for everyone. But just cutting back on the amount of water we use can be achieved by everyone.
Saving Water in the Bathroom
It seems that the bathroom is the area where we use the most water – with bathing and showering, flushing toilets, washing hands and brushing teeth using up quite a lot. I am not suggesting you cut back on your hygiene but there are ways to save water when doing these things.
Saving Water: The Toilet
The obvious thing is the saying if it’s yellow then let it mellow. This may not be for everyone however but an alternative idea is to flush it with what is known as grey water. This is water that has been used already – maybe from the washing up, a condenser dryer, bath water, cooking etc.
Flushing the toilet accounts for 30% of the water we use. If you are getting a new toilet then get a low flush or one with a half/dual flush button. Alternatively a save-a-flush bag in the cistern on a lever handled toilet will save one litre of water for every installation.
You can check for leaks in the toilet cistern with tablets that have dye, when you drop them in they will reveal leaks.
Saving Water: Taps
The tap is obviously the place where we are going to lose water as that’s how it comes out. Make sure that a tap is only running to collect the water we require. Turn off taps when you aren’t actually using them – for instance when washing your hands and brushing your teeth. Use a plug or a bowl to catch the water, so it doesn’t just go down the plug hole.
If replacing your taps then consider purchasing water saving taps, or alternatively you can buy tap inserts.
Saving Water: Showers
Have quick showers rather than a bath, or even better still wash from a bowl! Having a shower uses less water than a bath, but it depends on which type of shower you have to how water effective they are. A water saving shower regulator or a water efficient shower head both reduce the flow of hot water saving both water and energy.
You can further save water by placing a bucket underneath the shower to catch the water that isn’t quite warm enough, whilst waiting for it to warm up. Another way to make sure you save water is to use a shower timer – only spending two minutes in the shower, washing your hair less often.
Saving Water: Bath
It is better to have a shower than a bath for saving water but if you do then share the water. When you have finished you can use the water to flush the toilet with. You can save water in the bath by using a Bath measure: this saves around 15 litres of water by reducing the depth of how full the bath is by one notch on the measure – this includes a suction cup to attach to the bath. Also a universal plug provides a water tight seal to block the drain hole to avoid any leaking. Plus a Novaflo will cut off the water to the bath to prevent it from over-filling, and leaking all over the floor!
And don’t even think about getting a hot tub!
Saving Water in the Kitchen
In the kitchen we use water for cooking and drinking, washing (hands, dishes and clothes). Again these aren’t things we are likely to avoid but it is why it is even more important to ensure that we do things to make water sustainable.
Saving Water when Cooking
Saving water when cooking can start with preparation, using a bowl for example when washing and peeling, that way you can reuse the water afterwards. Thinking about what we eat is important too: we can save water if we eat less meat, since animal production uses more water than crops do. Plus we need to ensure we reduce food waste – as again this is just wasting water with the growth, transportation and possibly even disposal of the food.
You can save water when cooking by steaming vegetables in small amounts, rather than boiling a whole pan of water. Use smallest size pan that you need and a lid if you do not wish to steam for whatever reason. Obviously only boil the water you need in the kettle or saucepan (whether that is for cooking or hot drinks).
Other tips for saving water when cooking and drinking are to chill water in the fridge rather than running it until it turns cold, to reuse vegetable water (turning it into gravy or reuse it to cook with it again) and rinse out any tins such as chopped with water that can be added into the cooking.
Saving Water when Cleaning
Cleaning obviously uses water I have already talked about washing ourselves and our food and briefly touched on rinsing tins but there is also our clothes, dishes, homes and gardens. The advice is just the same as is for everything – only use what you need to do the job, using as little water as is required. Having less “stuff” will make it easier to keep clean, and less to clean and it is better to clean regularly, keeping on top of things rather than having to wait until an industrial clean is required – which would in turn require a lot more water.
When it comes to washing up use a bowl when hand washing the dishes. Some say that washing up by hand is better than a dishwasher but to only do it once or twice a day. That when running the water collect the cold water in a bucket to use outside whilst waiting for it to heat up. That at the end of the washing up is when best to rinse out the recycling.
Others feel that the more modern super-efficient dishwashers are more preferable for saving water, especially with large families. If they are used then it is best to make sure that they are full and that the Eco setting is used if available. This also applies to washing machines. Save up dirty clothes and use a colour catcher if you need to mix whites and colours to ensure a full load. Again use short cycles and do not wash clothes unnecessarily: Hang clothes out to air and rinse stains off rather than wash the whole item. If buying a new appliance (either for a dishwasher or washing machine) then look for the Eco-label for water and energy consumption
When it comes to washing the car I found conflicting advice – with some places suggesting that a car wash was more water efficient and others says a bucket and sponge was preferable: Either way just soaking the car with a hose isn’t the most sustainable way to look after our water. Instead a more efficient way is to use a trigger hose gun to control the amount of water used to reduce waste.
Saving Water in the Garden
The garden is obviously a great place to collect water. Water butts can be used to collect water for use around the garden or allotment; for house plants, car washing, window cleaning and even bird water. Standard domestic water butts only hold around 200 litres but you can be inventive with what you use to collect it – such as industrial sized 1000 litre barrels to a tuff spot (the birds love to bathe in ours!)
Again you can use water that has been previously used for cooking in the garden to water the plants – but you should not use grey water on the leaves. It is best to give plants a good watering once or twice a week in dry weather as opposed to a light daily watering. Water outdoor plants in the morning and directly to the roots with a watering can rather than on the leaves.
Use water resourcefully in the garden – limit pots and basket which need more watering and consider getting rid of the lawn or down-sizing it. Use water storing crystals or gel to lock water in the compost to help keep plant roots moist and reduce watering. Use mulch, compost or chip bark on the soil between plants to aid moisture and suppress weeds. Ground cover plants make cost-effective mulches as the shade the ground. Or you can get an indicator that turns red to show when potted plants need watering so that you do not give them more water than they need.
Place hanging baskets and pots in shady areas where possible. Plastic, glazed terracotta and wood are better for potting and planting as they lose less water than bare terracotta; and c hose plants that thrive in dry conditions – Alyssum, Geraniums, Cornflowers, French and African Marigolds, Petunias, Aquilegia, Campanula, and Heuchera lavender. The full sun symbol on the plant labels indicates their tolerance in dry conditions.
Lawns go brown in dry weather but recover when it rains – they do not need watering in between. If you cut grass slightly longer in dry periods and less often and leave the cuttings on to retain moisture.
These are ways to save water around the home to help save money as well as the environment – but of course this is only a small part of the bigger picture. We need to do more and more to make sure our planet is sustainable – for instance using less electricity as the power plants use thousands of gallons of water to cool.
If you have ideas on how to save water then please leave them in the comments below.
I would like to thank the members of my local Green Facebook Group, including my local Green MP EcoCody – for more eco ideas visit her at http://www.ecocody.com
* Sources:Human Development Report 2006. UNDP, 2006 Coping with water scarcity. Challenge of the twenty-first century. UN-Water, FAO, 2007