Oh water. One of the most prized liquids in the universe! To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld ‘Humans have a great fascination with water. We’re constantly going to beaches, pools, lakes, rivers. We’re snorkelling, we’re swimming, we’re scuba diving, we bathe in it, we’re all carrying around bottles of water, humans are mostly made of water, we can’t seem to get enough water! Unless it rains and then we’re like “Oh great, I’m soaked".
How much water is there?
For all our love of water, we actually don’t seem to have much respect for water. From polluting our waterways with chemicals we use at home and in industrial processes, to fracking, to plastic pollution, to spraying your partner with the hose when they get home from work (doesn’t everyone do this?) - you’d think we would value water a lot more than we do.
Did you know that the United States has a list of scenarios for reasons aliens might invade earth? Do you know what is at the top of that list? Jude Law? NO. Water!
Water makes up roughly 71% of the Earth, BUT the percentage that is freshwater and not trapped away in glaciers is, drum roll please... less than 1%! When I first heard this stat it forever changed the way I thought about water. No more washing the car, cleaning down the pavement, and of course, using the hose as a sneak attack when Gab gets home from work.
With National Water Week later this month, as well as the heat of summer approaching it seems like the perfect time to go over how we can save water in all areas of our lives.
Note: Many of these solutions can be applied in a school and business setting, not just at home.
Saving water in the home
First things first, what is your water footprint? To find out, head over to the GRACE water footprint calculator. I scored 703 gallons a day or roughly 3000 litres which seems truly monstrous but remember this calculator is also factoring in purchases, eating habits, etc.
If you are unsure of where to start the graphic below will give you an idea.
It's amazing how much water flushing the toilet uses especially if you have an older toilet or a single flush system. Most toilets post-1994 are efficient models and you can check this by looking for a date on the back or underneath the lid of your toilet.
If you do have a multi-flush system, then you are in luck! What I have done at home is put a piece of duct tape over the large button and I have never had an issue. If you have a single-flush toilet you can put a brick in the top reservoir to reduce the amount of water per flush (double-check with your plumber/Youtube if needed). It's also a good idea to check for leaks. Some food dye in the cistern will quickly show if there are any areas water is escaping. Oh, the stories we have from the ClimateClever program about leaking toilets!
Then there is the old school classic that saves a bunch of water, ‘If it’s yellow let it mellow’. Some people might find this a tad off-putting at first but you quickly get used to it and let’s face it, much rather yellow water in my toilet than a drought-stricken planet! I mean, there is always an outhouse as an alternative?
Everything else inside the home
Do you have a bower (bath-shower)? Me too! Baths are not ideal for saving water so avoid where possible (depending on your tub it can be around 150L for one bath!). In regards to showers, recently built or renovated houses will have a water-efficient showerhead but always check. This goes for your taps as well. If you don’t have flow restrictors on your taps already, as Woody from Toy Story puts it, “If you don’t have one, get one!”
I was very surprised to find that 9 litres per minute is considered water efficient for a shower. 9 litres?! For a 5-minute shower that’s 45 litres of water! If you have a larger budget you can find showerheads that are less than 5 litres of water a minute, now we’re talking! This is what I have and I have already paid off the showerhead with the savings.
Fortunately, many councils and states offer programs to assist residents such as Waterfix in NSW. For $33 you get a complete check of your property. A quick call to the council or look over their website will reveal any additional rebates including water tanks and rain barrels, which if you have a garden I also highly recommend. You can pick up some very cheap options on Facebook Marketplace or at Bunnings.
If you have a washing machine, try to do full loads rather than smaller loads and wash on cold water where possible. This applies to your dishwasher as well.
The final big water-saving option is a grey-water system that uses the water from certain appliances such as a washing machine and diverts that used water to a rain tank. Keep in mind you will need to use environmentally friendly soap options such as Koh or soapberries. Again, this is a discussion to have with your plumber.
Saving water outside the home
This is where things get a bit tricky because much like our carbon footprint we cannot see the direct impact of our water use and pretty much everything needs water at some point in the production process. Here are some everyday heavy hitters:
Oh and what about the drinks we love, well they use a lot of water too.
With such staggering numbers, you may think ‘how the heck have we not run out of water yet?!’. Well, we have. Many parts of the world have already experienced what we are calling [‘day zero](https://news.stanford.edu/2020/11/09/cape-towns-day-zero-drought-sign-things-come/)’ as well as right here in Australia with regional areas such as [Bendigo](https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-20/bendigo-council-seeks-drought-declaration/7340656) having to also cart in water from surrounding areas.
‘Thanks, Luke, now I feel terrible. Yeah, it’s not great news, BUT, there is much we can do as individuals. While we do need governments to change their ways and must encourage them to do so, tackling just a few of the solutions listed above will make literally, a world of difference. Imagine if every house and apartment had a water tank as standard. Imagine if there were tighter regulations on water-intensive industries such as cotton or beef. Imagine if we banned gas drilling which not only uses vast quantities of water but poisons the waterways we already have. In the meantime, I can prove to you that actions at home make a big difference.
The image above is from my personal ClimateClever account. These changes came about after I switched my showerhead, stopped using the large flush on the toilet, ‘let it mellow’, and started filling up our watering can in the shower as the water gets hot. A grand total of 15 minutes work. Every. Drop. Counts.
For more water-saving tips and ideas for your home, school, or workplace, head to the Action section of our ClimateClever App.