Water is a scarce resource, yet it’s essential for our existence.
As water supplies increasingly come under pressure thanks to population growth and the effects of climate change, governments are working frantically to develop solutions for water shortages, sometimes introducing sweeping water restrictions.
This has put the issue of water conservation front of mind for the community.
Adopting water wise habits to save water is one way to limit the effect of water restrictions and unreliable water supplies on your lifestyle.
Saving water in this way will also save you money as it reduces your water bills or your reliance on water deliveries.
And of course, saving water helps to save the planet.
Adopting water wise habits to save water may involve reducing your overall water usage, using water efficient products and appliances, recycling grey water and reducing your dependence on mains water by utilising a Rain Harvesting system.
Simple ways to reduce water usage in your home
In Australia, washing clothes is responsible for 15% of a typical household’s water use. One simple way to reduce your water usage in the laundry is to make sure you match your water level to the size of your load – or only wash clothes when you can fill the washing machine drum.
Toilet flushing can account for a phenomenal 20% of your water use. By installing dual-flush toilets, you can save water by controlling the volume of water that’s used for each flush. Toilet maintenance is also important. Make sure your toilet button doesn’t stick after flushing and regularly check your toilet for leaks. To do this, put food colouring into your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl, you have a leak. Fixing this leak could save more than 2,250 litres a month.
Bathing also accounts for around 20% of a typical household’s water use. The easiest way to save money in the bathroom is to turn off the water when you’re not using it – for example, while you’re brushing your teeth, shaving or shampooing and conditioning your hair. These three simple adjustments to your water habits can save hundreds of litres of water a week. Low flow shower heads can also reduce your water usage, while plugging the bathtub before turning on the water, then adjusting the temperature as it fills up, is another water wise bathroom habit.
Washing dishes accounts for a large chunk of kitchen water use, so it’s important to adopt water wise dishwashing habits. If you wash dishes by hand, soak pots and pans instead of running water while scraping them clean. Use two sinks – fill one sink with wash water and the other sink with rinse water. For dishwashers, avoid rinsing dishes beforehand and only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Using one glass to drink water from each day will also reduce the load of washing.
For food preparation, don’t thaw food in running water and wash produce in the sink or a container that’s partially filled with water rather than washing it under running water. Install an instant hot water heater so you don’t have to let water run while it heats up, and keep a jug of water in the refrigerator so you don’t have to let water run to cool down.
Simple ways to reduce water usage in your garden
It’s important to select water efficient plants or plants that are appropriate for local conditions and understand how much water they really need. Prepare garden beds with good soil, water storing granules and wetting agent, and group plants with similar water requirements together. Only water until the top 15 – 20cm of soil is wet, and use wood chips, chipped tree waste, gravel or stone to mulch garden beds in order to retain moisture and control weeds. If your soil is water repellent, apply soil – wetting agents in spring to help water retention.
Lawns are water-hungry, so minimise grass areas in your yard and use water-efficient landscaping. Remember, a less-than-lush lawn during periods of drought will readily regenerate when water becomes available again.
To restrict water wastage and evaporation, use trigger operated hose nozzles and avoid watering in the middle of the day or when it’s windy. Where possible, reduce the number of days and time that you water the garden. Install automatic timers and/or restrict the time that sprinklers are left on. Don’t water paths and driveways –sweep them instead.
A little bit of management can go a long way to reducing water loss from your pool. In particular, use pool covers to reduce evaporation losses by up to 90% and help keep the water clean.
Water efficient products and appliances
While adopting water wise habits can go some way to reducing your water usage without interrupting your lifestyle, you still need to use water. So the next important step in sustainable water practices is to use water efficient products and appliances. In Australia, the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme can assist you in comparing the relative water efficiency of available products. It uses a star rating system for easy, at-a-glance comparisons. The WELS scheme rates products including shower heads, dishwashers, washing machines, taps and tap outlets, and toilet suites or cisterns. Using products with a good WELS rating can save thousands of litres of water a year.
Recycling grey water
Grey water recycling allows you to use wastewater from showers, baths and the laundry to water your garden (and even flush toilets and wash laundry, in some cases). Considering that as much as 50% of domestic water use occurs in gardens, this can lead to serious water savings. You can read about grey water recycling in more detail here.
A Rain Harvesting system allows you to harvest and store the rainwater that lands on your roof for use in and around your home. To be effective, your Rain Harvesting system should include appropriate filters, covers and diverters to protect your water quality so that your water is fit-for-purpose and can be used to supplement or provide for your water needs. When done right, Rain Harvesting is a water wise habit because it saves water from other sources (such as mains water or water deliveries) and offers a reliable water supply for your needs. To learn more, read about how you can design the right Rain Harvesting system for your property and needs.
Get water wise
By developing sustainable water supplies and practices like those we’ve described above, you can be confident that you’re “doing your part” and saving money at the same time –all without seriously interrupting your lifestyle.