Why is it important to reduce your water usage?
With certain areas of South Africa experiencing droughts, reducing your water usage is more important than ever. It is also beneficial to save water and moderate your consumption if you live in an area where the accessible water is polluted and you have to rely on filtered water.
How can you reduce your water usage?
In the house:
Shower and bath
The primary sources of water usage in your household are usually the bath and shower. Traditional shower heads have a flow of anything between 6 and 12 litres per minute. Having a 10 minute shower at 10 litres per minute = 100 litres of water per shower! Modern shower heads allow you to regulate the flow between 1.5 and 3 litres per minute - now your 10 minute shower can use 4 times less water (25 litres).
The toilet is the second biggest water consumption culprit in most homes, especially if you have an old fashioned cistern. Modern toilets can use between 9 and 12 litres of water per flush, while older, traditional toilets can use up to 20 litres of water per flush. You can easily modify and reduce the volume of water that is used for each flush by raising the lid of the toilet, adjusting the lever/bar that holds the float valve (plastic ball that floats), and bending it a bit so that the float valve stops the tap inside the system earlier. This can reduce each flush to 5 litres, which is sufficient to flush down all solid waste.
Standard top loaders typically use between 80 and 140 litres of water per wash. If you have one of these, make sure not to do any half loads, as it will be a waste of water and electricity. Modern washing machines, aka front loaders, use anything between 25 and 75 litres of water per wash. They are a recommended alternative to top loaders as they use less water and electricity. Some front loaders save even more water by allowing you to alter the settings to choose a 15 minute cycle.
A regular dishwasher uses between 15 to 20 litres of water per cycle, while more modern dishwashers use as little as 6.5 litres per cycle. It is recommended to only use the dishwasher when it is full, as a half-load will use the same amount of energy and water.
Taps generally use the least amount of water in homes. However, there is a quick fix to using even less water: you can install an aerator onto your taps, which turns the water stream into an eye-catching spiral pattern, and flows at 1.2 litres per minute. Some even provide a mist of water that is enough to wash your hands, with a flow rate of 0.5 litres per minute. Without an aerator, water flows out of the taps at an average rate of 10 litres per minute.
In the garden:
To reduce your water consumption in the garden, the first step is to adjust your irrigation system. Try to not irrigate during day time, as up to 80% of the water you use will be evaporated. For every litre of water you use for your plants, 4 litres is evaporated. The best times of the day to irrigate is early in the morning, or late evening.
When you irrigate your garden, you can also use grey water. If you have a grey water system connected to your washing machine, this will supply you with 150 to 200 litres per week. It is strongly recommended that you use eco-friendly, biodegradable detergents. Non-biodegradable detergents can kill all insect life and slowly destroy your soil, which are needed to keep your plants alive.
Grey water from the shower or bath can be used too, but it is again recommended that you use eco-friendly products (soap, shampoo, face wash).
Outside the house:
- Car wash services that use water-less and eco-friendly solutions
- Some car washes have invested in recycling systems to recuperate the dirty water, filter it, and re-use it to wash other vehicles
- Hand sanitizers are a great alternative to using water for washing your hands
- Single-use plastic consumption: instead of buying a plastic bottle of water that you are likely to throw away, bring your own glass bottle and containers that you can use everyday
Do you recommend reducing your water usage?
Yes, with regards to the water crisis in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa, most people were able to reduce their water consumption by a third, and were still able to use water for showering, drinking, cooking and cleaning. It is possible and easy to reduce your water usage and it becomes a worth-while and positive cycle. You may then consider relying on filtered rainwater to complement or replace municipal water in your house, once you know and control your water consumption.