Water saving tips for home.
We are an upper middle income household of Mom, Dad, two adult children, guinea pigs, indigenous trees and a veggie garden. We live in U.A.E where the municipal water supply is being outpaced by the city’s growing population. While the demand for water is growing the supply is constrained no significant new water catchments to tap into. Alternative water resources such as desalination have very high energy costs making it an expensive option. Recycling of water from treated sewage effluent is increasingly being used in irrigation. Taking this to the next level as potable water also has high cost implications.
Our biggest water consumers were the garden, the toilet (flushing away drinking water), the showers and the clothes washing machine in that order. The last two provide opportunities to reuse water as grey water.
Specific Water Saving Tips for the Home.
In the Kitchen:
We keep a plastic basin in the `rinse’ sink and use the rinse water to water the garden. When we wash fruit or our hands under the tap the plastic basin captures the water that would otherwise have gone down the drain. We also have a dedicated sink for washing fruit and veggies, tipping out cold tea etc which has an outlet pipe that directly waters the shrubs below the kitchen window. See photo on RHS of grey plastic rinse basin and behind the partition, the dedicated rinsing sink or prep bowl.
The jury comment on dishwashers is that a full load uses less water than washing dishes a number of times a day after each meal. Dishwasher water is not suitable for use as grey water.
The water from the washing machine should be connected to a grey water system – a future project on our water saving list.
In the Bathroom:
Shower Water: We are strict about short showers. If you can’t get family members to take short showers install a low flow or aerated shower head. The water from our shower feeds into a grey water tank which in turn waters a shrubby part of the garden by gravity feed. See the photo of our DIY grey water system. It has a tap at the base of the old rubber refuse bin to allow water to be piped into the garden. We can close the tap to catch the water in the drum and then scoop it out with a watering can.
Grey water must be used within 24 hours as bacterial action in the water can cause an unpleasant odour. It is best to use natural soaps and cleaning agents if you plan to water your garden with grey water. If you do not want to go DIY find out about commercial grey water systems which have filters and pumps. E.G. A Water Rhapsody spokes person on. Depending on your water bill, the return on investment of a grey water system is typically 2 years.
Flushing the toilet: The toilet cisterns in our home are smallish ones (5-6ltrs) with dual flush mechanisms. Many older cisterns use between 8 – 11 ltrs. In a typical home, flushing the toilet can account for a quarter of water used in the house. The thought of so much clean water being flushed away motivated us to think about alternatives. We keep a bucket in the bathroom which we use for washing feet & hands. This water gets poured into the toilet cistern thereby avoiding the use of liters of potable each month. The simplest way to save is to flush less even if this causes conflict between etiquette and water efficiency.
In the Garden:
Rain tanks of various sizes, either JOJO tanks or reused drums collect rain water from our roof which we use to water the garden and to fill the bird baths. Birds need water too especially in our hot dry summers.
The garden is made up mostly of indigenous water wise plants with small patches of lawn as well as vegetables and herbs. We use grey water and rain water to water the garden. What the water wise indigenous plants may lack in exotic displays of colour, they more than compensate for by attracting a menagerie of birds, chameleons, lizards, leopard toads, interesting insects and bats – even the odd slug eater snake.
In summer we often shower in the garden under a tree which has a shower rose attachment for the hose. An enclosed garden shower with water piped from the solar water geyser is on our green home DIY list.
Our cars are also washed on the lawn with eco-friendly soap using a bucket with rain water.
Paved areas are swept NOT hosed down.
Investing money in water tanks and time in behavioral changes has not made us water independent. We are however less dependent on potable (City) water and resilient even when once again the water pipe in our street bursts. The increasing cost of water is also less of a concern as we learn to use less water while enjoying a flourishing garden. Please share your water wise stories – and grow our learning.