By Duncan Cox
With news of hosepipe bans and record low levels in reservoirs across the country, I was reminded about recent things we learned and reviewed through the ongoing Cundall Diploma. Other countries have been increasingly dealing with this problem for many years and part of the Sustainable Water module talked us through the differences between blue, grey, potable and black water and how the science has developed to allow different water types to be used/re-used to the maximum potential.
The biggest issue, however, was how we were challenged as a family to consider and reduce our own usage and the module encouraged me to think about what we were doing (both good and bad), so this blog is just to share those thoughts.
A while ago, I got a water reduction kit from our water supplier Northumbria Water . This was after our Local Green Team chatted about this in one of our meetings and agreed that we’d achieved what we could within the office, so then considered what we could do to encourage our colleagues to consider their water use at home. The kit was easy to order, came promptly and contained a few adaptors, plugs and a timer for use in the shower. Some bits didn’t fit our taps or in the case of the ‘save a flush’ (a simple device to reduce the volume of flow when the toilet flushed) did not apply as our toilets are all dual flush already. However, I would still recommend it to you if you are interested – you can always ‘re-gift’ the bits you can’t use!
The average consumption per person per household is 150 litres per person per day. We don’t have a water meter, so the study l worked through looked at toilet type (single or dual), the water efficiency of our appliances (washing machine and dishwasher) and the flow rates of our various taps, baths and showers. To estimate our consumption within the house, it also asked the question of what we do to irrigate the garden and how much. Our number came out at 89 litres per person per day – we have efficient appliances already and only one of us has a periodic bath, whereas the rest of us have showers. The showers we do have aren’t pumped power showers, so aren’t massive consumers and I installed the shower timer that Northumbria Water kindly provided, which provides a timely reminder to the couple of us that like longer showers!
Things that I learned / was challenged to change along the way:
- Dual flush – is it only me that wasn’t clear which button did which flush type? For us the smaller button is the smaller flush volume but it’s always worth knowing!
- Should we get a water meter to check whether we are actually consuming what I think we are? If our consumption is less than the UK average, then we could and should be saving money on our water bills by getting one installed. No brainer really – we’re on it!
- Should we get a water butt? Short answer is yes. You can get butts that appear easy to install and would deal with the limited bits of watering can irrigation we do in the garden very easily. On the flip side, I know this isn’t a given if the person is elderly or infirm, as lugging a watering can around a garden can be tricky.
- Putting in the shower timer helped people to be mindful about how much water they were using.
- I also was reminded that turning off the tap when doing my teeth was a simple habit that I had allowed myself to drift back out of, so that was a complete waste.
You could try and blame the low water levels on leaks in the old infrastructure, or that should have been treated but the simple fact that water is a limited and precious resource that we only appreciate when we haven’t got! We should all be doing what we can – and we might even save some money off the water bills!
The other part of the argument, which has made national papers (but we tend to forget), is the less obvious matter of water consumed in making the products and materials we consume in this country. That’s another biggie that I’ll leave for another time, but if you are interested in reading more I’d direct you to waterwise.org.uk, which has some good information and tips on what you can do to save water.