It makes up 60 per cent of the human body, 73 per cent of the human brain, and 71 per cent of the world’s surface is covered with it – so it goes without saying that water is important.
From our liquor cabinets to our front lawns, water underlines almost every aspect of our lives and keeps us alive, so it’s perhaps as understandable as it is unwise that we take it for granted.
The current average daily water consumption is 340 litres per person or 900 litres per household. This is a surprisingly large number that tends to be underestimated. This is not only straining one of our planet’s most precious resources but sometimes adding hundreds onto utility bills around Australia.
If you’re on a water meter, you’ve probably pegged that water waste means dollars down the plughole, but not everyone realises that it often affects gas bills too. It’s estimated that roughly 20 per cent of a typical gas bill is from heating water for taps and showers.
Here’s how to save water, money and help the environment by reducing water waste at home.
Tighten those taps
Estimates suggest that a single dripping tap haemorrhages up to 5300 litres of water a year, so stemming the flow can save serious cash over weeks or months.
The fault will usually lie with the washer, which experienced DIY-ers can replace themselves. Start by turning off the water at an isolation valve or stopcock and double-check that your replacement washer is the right fit for your tap (most will take standard size).
Remove the handle and cover before unscrewing the main nut, while holding the body of the tap firmly in place. Pull the old washer off the pin with a pair of pliers, and put the new one in place the same way, using petroleum jelly to slide it down it if gets stuck.
If this all sounds a bit technical, or you have a modern, washerless tap, do not attempt to do it yourself. When plumbing goes wrong, it goes really wrong, so unless you want to enjoy a long soak in rooms besides your bathroom, we recommend calling in the pros.
One of history’s greatest rivalries, alongside tea vs. coffee and cats vs. dogs, the bath-shower axis has long been governed by the principle that, although baths are more relaxing, showers are infinitely more efficient.
This is often true, but not always. Exact estimates vary, but showers that last 10 minutes or more are very likely to use more water than a bath overall, while power showers, which use more water, can cut the tipping point to five or six minutes.
Having a shower is not in itself a virtue, but having a short shower works wonders when it comes to curbing water usage. Consider showering while listening to music and try to condense your shower into a single song. For next-level optimisation, employ a so-called ‘navy shower’ by temporarily switching the water off while lathering.
Perk up your plumbing
There’s a whole host of appliances that can help you save water too. If you’re wedded to washing by bathtub, consider a reduced capacity bath, as regular 80-litre tubs need a hefty volume to get even half full.
Old-fashioned, cistern toilets use up to 13 litres a flush – that’s a lot, for those unfamiliar with toilet mechanics – while modern units are required by law to at least cut that number in half.
Consider installing ‘aerated’ taps and showerheads, which simulate higher water pressure by injecting the flow with air, or at least eschew the high turnover of the modern power shower.
Not every water-saving trick has to involve spanners and pipework, and there’s a whole reservoir of simple, small-scale lifestyle changes that can have a noteworthy effect on your annual usage.
Halt unnecessary boil-off (and energy costs) by only filling the kettle with what you need; wash vegetables in a bowl, rather than under the tap; wait until you have a full load before starting a cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine – you get the idea.
A running tap wastes more than six litres every minute, so make sure to turn the tap off while brushing your teeth. Instead of waiting for the water to run cold when you’re thirsty, put a bottle of tap water in the fridge and replenish as necessary, and garden with a watering can, not a hosepipe.
Day to day, conserving water is often about mindset, and if you’re on the lookout for opportunities to save, you’ll find them.
What are your water-saving tips for around the home and garden?
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