More water-saving

Following on from yesterday’s post referring to the report from the Energy Saving Trust, I want to examine what it is possible to do to reduce water consumption. But before I do, you might be wondering why the Energy Saving Trust wrote a report on saving water… well, according to their website, they ‘offer impartial advice to communities and households on how to reduce carbon emissions, use water more sustainably and save money on energy bills’. Energy and water are linked because lots of the water that we use in our homes is hot (showers, baths, cups of tea…) and so reducing water consumption can also reduce energy consumption. In addition, producing the water that comes out of our taps requires energy because it is treated to get rid of pathogens etc and when we send it on its way down the drain, it also has to be treated to make it clean enough to release into the environment. The EST says:

Heated water (for activities such as baths, showers, washing up and water-using electrical appliances) contributes a lot to energy bills. But this link, and its implications, often goes unnoticed by householders

Unfortunately, I was not greatly inspired by the report and the measures suggested in it. The EST doesn’t really seem to know who their target audience is, so the recommendations they come up with are a mix of things we can do as individuals and things that governments should do. This is their final list:

  • Aim to replace all remaining old or high-flow showerheads with water efficient showerheads (with flow rates of eight litres per minute or fewer).
  • Increase efforts on water efficiency education, specifically to promote the benefits of shorter showers.
  • Aim to either retrofit and/or replace all high-volume flush toilets.
  • Ensure that the most energy and water efficient machines available are promoted and incentivised.
  • When purchasing or replacing waterusing appliances, choose the most energy and water efficient model.
  • Increase the penetration of water meters in GB housing stock. Reported uptake of water efficient devices and behaviours was found to be greater in metered properties. The rollout of water metering can also provide a key opportunity for householder engagement and education on household-specific water saving opportunities.
  • Seek to combine water and energy saving education and delivery schemes for the benefit of the consumer.
  • Support and promote the Water Label by linking with built environment, procurement and water efficiency initiatives.

Not much for us ordinary folk to work with there, but there was a list in a table on page 28 comparing what people do in metered vs unmetered homes, that might be a little more helpful:

  • Wash dishes with a bowl, not under a running tap
  • Have a cistern displacement device
  • Have an eco-showerhead
  • Use a dishwasher eco-setting
  • Boil only what they need in the kettle
  • Use a water butt in their garden
  • Have a dual flush toilet
  • Do not run the tap whilst brushing teeth
  • Fill the dishwasher before use
  • Fill the washing machine before use
  • Use a hose trigger when watering garden
  • Do not have a dripping tap

But, frankly, I was looking for suggestions that were a bit more creative, and statements like “Flushing the toilet is an unavoidable fact of life” is, frankly, simply not true. First of all, you don’t always have to flush – for example lots of people don’t at night because of the noise; second, there are toilets that use no water, and I’m not talking about huts at the end of the garden, these days there are all sorts of high tech solutions (see, for example, The Little House Company); and third, I know lots of folks who use urine as a resource – on the compost heap or as a liquid plant feed. Perhaps the Energy Saving Trust think we’re all too squeamish to take responsibility for the waste we produce.

That aside – and I know there are people who live in situations where there is little choice about dealing with human waste – there are all sorts of ways we can use our water more creatively and more efficiently. Metan, one of my favourite bloggers, wrote a post a while back in which she described her use of grey water from the washing machine. A simple solution with a pipe allowed her to water her lawn with water that would otherwise have just gone down the drain. Living in Australia, water is a precious commodity, so she found a way to use it twice. And in a comment after yesterday’s post, my friend Linda described multiple uses of one lot of water when she’s camping.

No hose pipes here: this courgette plant is certainly doing well on washing-up water

No hose pipes here: this courgette plant is certainly doing well on washing-up water

When the garden needs water, we always use the stuff we’ve washed-up with (in a bowl not with a dishwasher). Similarly, if I hand wash clothes, then that water goes on the garden too… or in the toilet cistern if it’s wet outside. In fact, hand washing is criticised in the EST report because it uses so much more water than a full washing machine. Well, fair enough if you have sufficient delicate washing to fill your washing machine, but often you don’t. And I actually use very little water for hand washing because I use Euclan, a washing liquid designed for wool that requires no rinsing.

Whilst reducing the time you spend in the shower or the number of baths you have can cut down on your water use (as suggested in the report), using your water creatively and more than once (not suggested in the report) can have a huge impact, as you can see from the figures I quoted yesterday. So, if your shower is over the bath, next time you have a shower, leave the plug in and use the soapy water in the toilet cistern for the next few flushes… you’ll be amazed the difference it makes to your water consumption.

And now I want to know – has any one else got good tips they’d like to share about saving water? I’m wondering if we can cut down a bit more!

Saving water – lots of water

Last week the British Press ran a story about saving water. The reason was the publication of a report from the Energy Saving Trust, entitled At Home with Water, which you can download here.

As regular readers know, in our household we do lots to reduce our water consumption, so I was keen to discover any innovative ways that we could do better. Sadly, for anyone who uses their common sense about water consumption, the report was disappointing. It starts well, including the statement:

Reducing water consumption is not an uncomfortable burden. We don’t have to be noticeably more frugal – we only have to be aware of the impact of our decisions and make some very simple changes.

Great! I can be aware of the impact that my decisions make! Only, it turns out that I already am aware, so it’s hard to improve. However, there are some interesting statistics (based on people’s responses when using The Water Energy Calculator). For example, showers account for 25% of water use and toilets for 22%, whilst watering the garden only accounts for 1%!

An extract from our latest water bill... I wondered why it was such a big scale up the side!

An extract from our latest water bill… I wondered why it was such a big scale up the side!

It also reveals that, on average, individuals use 142 l of water per day. Now, this is an interesting statistic, because in total in our two-person house last quarter, we used 0.06 cubic metres per day… since a cubic metre is 1000 litres, we use 60 l per day… that’s 30 l each… that’s just over 1/5 of the average. WOW! I knew we were good, but I didn’t realise we were that good. However, I don’t want you to think that this is at the expense of cleanliness: we each shower three or four times a week and the clothes are washed in a (full) water-efficient washing machine. BUT we rarely flush the toilet with water direct from the mains – it’s either re-used shower water or rainwater. We used to have the mains turned on to the toilet cistern, but it’s off now and that explains the recent drop in consumption that you can see in the graph on the left… allowing some mains filling led to the use of 1 l of mains water per flush (because we couldn’t fill the cistern from our water bottles fast enough to stop this happening).

According to the report, metered homes use about 3% less water than unmetered ones, but we seem to have beaten this figure somewhat.

More on what the Energy Saving Trust suggests we all do in a post later this week, along with some suggestions of my own. For now, however, I’m just going to sit here and feel smug!

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