Saving Water

by James Lea, April 2004

On average we each use 150 to 200 litres of water per day at home, for cooking, washing, flushing the toilet, doing the dishes, watering the garden, washing the car and so on. This might not sound a lot, but over a year amounts to many tons of water which has to be taken from water reservoirs, rivers and ground wells, for each one of us.

In the summer months this quantity of water extraction can lead to hose-pipe bans, as water companies strive to maintain adequate supplies.

Climate Change and Water Pollution

Pumping, storing and treating large quantities of water generates greenhouse gases, as energy is needed to drive the system. Furthermore, the sewage produced then needs to be pumped to treatment plants, saturated with chemicals and (often as not) disposed at sea, causing considerable pollution (see Brighton Surfers Against Sewage).

As climate change becomes an ever more prevalent reality, we all have a duty to reduce both our water consumption and sewage output.

Reducing water consumption

There are many simple low-cost measures you can take to save water. If you have a water meter fitted, you'll also save money. A typical water bill might be around £200 a year for two adults - saving just 10% through simple measures represents an extra £20 in your pocket. With a little effort, you can save much more than this.

Simple measures

  • Turn taps off when you're not using them, even when brushing your teeth!
  • Mend dripping taps - these can waste a surprising amount of water. A dripping a tap may only need a new washer fitted: just make sure you've turned the mains water supply off first!
  • Set your washing machine to an economy mode to reduce its water consumption; turn the temperature down to 40 centigrade or lower
  • Wash clothes less often - a single load of washing can consume an entire bath's worth of water (80 litres)
  • "When it's yellow let it be mellow, when it's brown then flush it down" - an Australian saying which is worth heeding in this country too. Flushing away a small quantity of urine with up to ten litres of drinking quality water is daft, but sadly an action many of us are accustomed to.
  • Shower don't bath; share baths (or water) where possible

More advanced measures

  • Replace conventional taps with low-flow taps which aerate the water as it comes out, to give a greater apparent water volume, at the same time making it easier to wash your hands
  • Fit a low flush toilet which uses only 4.5 to 6 litres, instead of the more usual 9 to 10 litres of a conventional toilet;
  • Alternatively, fit a dual-flush toilet with two modes: economy and normal.
  • Install a rainwater harvesting system and connect it to the second input of your rainwater flushing toilet so that you have a combined mains/rainwater flushing system.

Expected savings

Following these changes, we reduced our water consumption from 10 tonnes per month down to 7 tonnes. Having had a water meter fitted, we're now saving £63 a year on our water bill. As water companies strive to increase prices (the efficiency gains of the 1990s which they passed on to consumers have now been used up), this saving can only become greater.

An Ifo-Cera low flush wall-mounted toilet with a dual mains/rainwater inlet. This toilet uses only 4.5 to 6 litres per flush, compared to 9 litres plus for a conventional toilet.

An Ifo-Cera low flush wall-mounted toilet.

The dual inlet Torbeck-Opella rainwater/mains valve fitted to the toilet depicted above. The mains inlet is on the top left, and the rainwater inlet on the top right. If no rainwater is available, the valve automatically refills the tank using mains water. If rainwater is available, the mains inlet is inhibited and the tank refills with rainwater. No user intervention is required!

Any comments on this article?

If you have any comments you'd like to make, please send me your feedback.

-- (c) James Lea, www.GreenLiving.co.uk, 2005 - 2007 --