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How to save water


FILED IN: Issue 2 · Sustainability · Water

It is surprisingly easy (and cost-effective) for households to reduce water consumption by between 30% and 60%.

Why save water?
South Africa is generally a water-scarce country, and it is predicted that demand for water will exceed supply within the next 15 to 20 years. It is inevitable that we will need to be more efficient in our water use. In addition, providing water for households is expensive and environmentally damaging (e.g. involving changing natural water systems, depleting groundwater reserves, using resources in huge dam and pipeline construction, and consuming energy for pumping water). If effort was put into water saving rather than accommodating increased consumption, all the energy, resources and money that goes into developing such mass supply water systems could be saved, and natural water systems left intact.

How to save water
Studies show that an average suburban house can reduce their water consumption by 30-40% without sacrificing any comforts (from about 250 litres/person/day to 150 litres/person/day). In addition, if grey water is recycled for garden use, household water use can be reduced by an astounding 60% or more with ease.

1. Reduce the toilet flush volume – this alone can save you 20% of your total water consumption with no reduction in convenience. Older toilets have cisterns of around 11 litres, where in fact only half of this water volume is ever necessary. Modern toilets have more sensible cisterns of around 6 litres, and even this is unnecessarily wasteful for flushing liquids – you can save a lot of water by installing a dual-flush or multi-flush device in your toilet. The dual flush device has two fixed settings – a light setting for urine and a heavier one for solids. The multi-flush device lets you flush any amount you want – just lift the handle back up and the flush stops. To reduce the flush volume without any new installations, you can put a displacement container in the cistern – try a 2 litre coke bottle filled with water, and a little sand as ballast.

2. Recycle grey water to the garden – By installing a system to pump grey water (i.e. from the washing machine, basins, shower and bath) to the garden, most households will eliminate the need for any additional garden watering. This alone will reduce your consumption by 35%. These systems cost around R4500 installed, but will pay themselves back in water savings in one or two years.

3. Use a low-flow showerhead – fitting such showerheads will reduce shower water used by 50 – 75%. Showering is in any case more water-efficient than bathing, even without these showerheads (unless you take long showers, or share your bath).

4. Install tap aerators – these simple devices reduce the flow in kitchen taps by around 50-75%. Normally, much water from these taps flows straight down the sink without being used.
Remember that reducing hot water useage through more efficient showering also saves on the electricity required to heat the water – it is estimated that a water-efficient house would save well over R1000 per year in reduced water and electricity costs.

5. Check for, and fix leaks – a dripping tap could waste about 10 000 litres per year, a leaking toilet can waste as much as 300 000 litres per year! ?

Source: Info Sheet: Water Saving, by the SUSTAINABLE LIVING CENTRE


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  1. Nice ideas.
    One other thing is to collect the rainwater from the gutters of your house in a cistern and use that to water the garden as well. Our cistern water is used for all household and garden requirements.
    Our roof is approx 2,000 ft sq; our cistern holds approx 60,000 litres.
    This was all set up in the planning and building of the house. In seven years we have run out of cistern water twice at which time we switched to mains water.

    Comment by Lyn Rapley

  2. Love it all.
    Another way to save water is to wash our cars with waterless car wash products. Every car washed saves on average 100 litres of water. If we wash our vehicles, on average, twice a month and there are 8 000 000 vehicles on the road in South Africa! you do the maths.

    Comment by Cliff Bauermeister

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