There is no doubt that people both in the developed world and the developing world who have a home tend to be very inefficient in their water use. They may think it is no problem because it seems to rain all the time anyway. This is not looking at the bigger picture.
The Bigger picture
Only 2% of the water in the world is fresh water, and of that 2% about half is locked up in glaciers and polar caps. It is expensive and resources draining to desalinate water.
1 in 8 people in the world have no access to safe drinking water. As a result water born disease claims millions of lives a year, especially the lives of children.
Countries around the world have areas that are suffering unprecedented droughts. Over 60% of available fresh water is used on irrigation; much of it is irrigation for non-food crops such as coffee and cotton.
1 pint of beer takes 130 pints of water to produce. This is called the embedded water value of a product. Outrageously, a liter bottle of water has an embedded water value of over 1 liter. So many of the consumer items we take for granted require huge water inputs to make.
How much water do you need?
The WHO calculates that a person needs 13 gallons of water a day for drinking, cooking, washing and sanitation. It is a figure that is put into shocking contrast with the average American who uses 150 gallons a day at home.
There are many ways to reduce water consumption at home. This post will just look at the water used by toilets, showers, baths and faucets. These 4 uses of water make up about 35% of an entire home’s water consumption – and none of this water is drunk!
Nowadays you can buy toilets with various flush settings. Different waste in the toilet needs different volumes of flushing. However, the embedded water value of buying a new toilet means that the world will not see any net benefit from you using a low flush toilet for several years. To make a positive impact now simply put a rubber brick in your toilet cistern to reduce flush volumes. You could fill a PET bottle with a few pebbles and fill with water and put in the cistern to do the same job. Care must be taken that the brick or PET bottle does not interfere with the flushing mechanism.
With toilets it is important to remember that it is not a garbage disposal unit or an ashtray. Flushing trash and cigarette butts down the toilet are very bad for the environment and a waste of water.
The average bath uses 40 gallons of water. That is enough water for 1 person for 3 days! Baths are a luxury and should be regarded as such. The media is too full of images of women luxuriating in a bath. There is nothing wrong with beautiful skin but do you want it at the cost of a bad conscience? If a bath is a ‘must’ for you then why not practice some grey water recycling and using the used bath water for flushing the toilet or washing the car? Sharing baths and using less water in the bath are also obvious compromise strategies.
The average shower uses 5 gallons of water per minute (GPM). An 8 minute shower uses as much water as a bath. There are a number of simple things you can do to use less water for showering.
- Turn the water off while you are soaping your body and then turn the water back on to rinse off.
- Put lagging around the water pipes so that the water in the shower warms up quicker.
- Install a low flow shower. The typical low flow shower reduces GPM from 5 to 2.5 or even less. This is achieved by holes in the shower wand that draw in air and mix it with the water. The aerated water from a low flow shower system can have a beneficial spa effect on the body. No spray strength is lost with a good low flow shower.
And finally, as with bath water there is the possibility of installing a grey water recycling system to re-use the shower water in a constructive way.
As with showers, normal faucets have an unnecessary high gallon per minute flow rate. People are also often in the habit of running faucets for too long or just plain wasting water. Improving faucet habits will make a big difference.
- Check all faucets for leaks. A leaky faucet can use 20 gallons of water a day.
- Install faucet aerators. These work on the same principle as low flow showers – namely, they mix air with water to reduce GPM flows. You can buy faucet aerators that use as little as 0.5 gallons a minute.
- Don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Fill a glass and use this water to rinse your mouth and clean the tooth brush.
- Don’t leave the faucet running when you wash dishes. Fill up a bowl and use this water to rinse dishes, cups, cutlery etc.; after you can use the water in the garden.
It is worth your time looking at ways to reduce water consumption in the home. Water conservation in the home is vital. It reduces bills and helps to ensure future generations have a decent standard of living. One area that must be tackled is toilets, baths, showers and faucets. The future demands it; as do the 1 in 8 who are not fortunate enough to have a home with clean running water.