A sensible Strategy for using less than 87 liters per day

 

 

 

If you are living in the Cape, there is a good chance you are discussing water saving on a daily basis. You are aware of the water crisis and you are trying to “do your bit”. Every day you will hear a new trick for saving water, from eating off paper plates to only showering every third day – but what makes sense? What is important, effective and worthwhile? Are we focusing on the small stuff while the big issues are lost?

Here are some thoughts on a sensible approach to tackling water saving in your home to get you below the requirements of 87 liters per person per day.
 

 

Measure & Understand

There is a saying “you cannot manage what you do not measure”. This is true for water savings. How can we make effective plans if we don’t know where our water is being used and if we must wait for the municipal bill to see the impact of our changes?

 

Therefore, we recommend taking your own water readings.

 

At the end of each month I take a photo of our water meter to act as a record. From this, I can work out my water consumption per person per day.

  • Subtract the new reading from the old reading New Reading – old reading
  • x 1000 to get to total liters used in the last month(water meters show kilo-liters)
  • Divide by number of days (e.g 30 days)
  • Divide by people living on the property

That figure is your litres per person per day.

 

But don’t wait for a whole month to work this out, taking frequent readings will help you identify what is using your water.

 

You can also measure your water consumers directly. For example, what is the flow rate of your shower head? How much water does it take to full your toilet cistern? All this information will help you to put in place a proper water saving strategy for your home.

 

Now you know how much water you are consuming, what do you do about it?

The Big Consumers First!

 

Starting with the largest consumers would make the most sense, but what are they? Toilets, laundry and showering!

 

Before water restrictions, the breakdown of the daily water consumption in your home (excluding the garden, car cleaning pool etc.) would look something like the graph below. This scenario assumes the following per person per day:

  • 1 x 6-minute shower
  • 4 x toilet flushes
  • 4 x sinks of water for the laundry and dishes

 

Water Consumption per Person per day

But let’s assume most of us are responsible citizens and have started “cutting back” on our water use. Perhaps you have cut down to the following: a shorter shower (4 minutes), less water for the laundry & dishes (3 sinks) and fewer toilet flushes (2 flushes).  Water consumption is now around 110 liters per day with the breakdown in the graph below. So we are still struggling to meet the 87l per person daily target.

Water Consumption per Person per day

 

It is important to observe that the large water users in the home are still the shower, dishes & laundry and toilets. To achieve significant water savings, these areas need to be focused on.

Let’s address them one at a time.

Reduce and Re-use

Waste management promotes the three R’s; Reduce, re-use and recycle. Since recycling water is beyond most of us, that leaves Reduce and Re-use for water saving in the home.

Showering

Reduce

  • Install a water saving shower head

Especially if you have an old shower-head, installing a water saving shower head is one of the most important steps to reducing water consumption. Old shower heads can run at over 20 liters per minute, so a 5-minute shower could use more than your entire daily budget of 87 liters! Water savings shower heads can cut the flow rate down to less than 6 liters per minute (With my water saving showerhead I can have an acceptable shower at 2l/min), and if you get the right one, you can still have a comfortable shower!

  • Keep it short and switch off for the soapy parts

I hate suggesting this, because I love my morning showers, but the ideal water saving shower involves switching off the water while you soap and scrub and only switching on again to rinse. The point is to reduce the time the shower water is running.

With just these two changes, a lower shower flow rate (6l/min vs 15l/min), and a short shower time (4 minutes vs 6 minutes), we have saved 36 liters per day! And the total consumption is below 80l per day!

 

Water Consumption per Person per day

Re-Use

Catching the warm-up water from the shower head and keeping the bucket under you while you shower will give you “grey water” that can be re-used..

  • Use the shower water in the toilet, this is a great way to use shower water
  • First laundry load

If you have a top-loader, the shower water can be used to supplement the first wash cycle of the washing machine.

  • Cleaning

If you can catch the warm-up water separately, it can be used for cleaning around the house

Hoever, if you are using a water saving shower head, and cutting down on your shower time, you probably don’t have enough water for even these activities. At least, that is our experience.

Laundry & Dishes

The next large water consumer in your home is usually for the dishes & laundry. We discovered our top loader was using approximately 210 liters per load. This is why measuring your water consumers is important.

  • Reducing laundry consumption
    • Reduce the laundry load

Look for ways to cut back on the number of laundry loads. Only wash items that really need to be washed. Wear your clothes as long as possible (and hygenic).

    • Use water saving settings

Once we realized the washing machine was using such a large quantity of water per load, we discovered that we could run it on a lower water setting without losing effectiveness.

    • If you cannot reduce the water required per load on your old machine, maybe it’s time to buy that modern washing machine with the water saving features.

 

  • Re-use your laundry water
    • Use the rinse water for the first wash of the next load

This is where we made a big water saving. By storing the old rinse water from a load, and putting it back into the machine with the next load, we cut our water consumption per load by 2/3rds.

    • Use rinse water for mopping, watering plants and flushing the toilet

Toilet

I have kept this till last for a reason. Much of the water that you keep for re-use in the previous areas can be used to cut down or eliminate the need to use fresh water in your toilets.

Reduce

  • Put the water from your shower or the laundry into buckets and use these buckets to flush the toilet.
  • Only flush when you need to.

The old policy of “If it is yellow, let it mellow. If it is brown, flush it down”.

  • Make sure you are not over flushing

A toilet may only need as little as 9 liters to flush effectively. Old cisterns can hold much more than this. Putting an old margarine tub or two into your cistern, held down by a few stones will save water for each flush.

Finally

Having put all these strategies in place, the potential savings are shown in the graph below. A significant improvement and well below the target set by the municipality.

In our home, we are still looking for ways to further reduce our water consumption. But our largest victories have come only because we started measuring and understanding where we were using our water.

 

If you have any comments on this strategy and/or additional advice, I would welcome it.

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