Focusing on saving our precious water and energy resources is fast becoming a way of life for people the world over. Water, in particular, is a concern as we humans literally cannot exist without fresh, potable H2O. A look at some of the statistics – like the fact that 1.8 billion people can only access water contaminated with faeces or that this same water causes half a million diarrhoeal deaths every year – and I bet you’re feeling very grateful you have access to a decent source.
Still, we can all do more to conserve this most precious of resources. From greywater systems to bucket systems and in between; the good news is that many of the most effective water-saving tips need not cost you a fortune or any money at all.
Grey is the New Green
Greywater is the waste water collected from your bath, shower, sink, and washing machine. (Using leftover dishwashing water is not always recommended as, if it’s very fatty, it can actually damage the vegetation in your garden by causing a residue build-up on the leaves.) If you consider that a family of four will consume on average 200-300 litres of (reusable) water daily, it adds to up to a tremendous source of greywater.
Scientists now believe that the low concentration of useful sulphates and nitrates – residue from soaps and detergents – contained in greywater may actually be beneficial for your garden. Of course, if you use organic or biodegradable soaps and detergents, it is even better, and naturally kinder to your plants, trees and vegetables. With our gardens accounting for up to 35% of our domestic water consumption, irrigating with greywater makes resource-saving sense.
Greywater is not only good for gardens though; it is ideal for flushing the toilet. It can either be distributed manually using buckets or via a homemade piping system. Or for the sake of convenience, you can choose to fit a full-blown greywater system. There are several online retailers of DIY systems – starting at around R3400 – if you feel competent to take on the plumbing aspect of the fitment. For a full-installation service expect to pay around R15000; either way, a greywater system more than pays for itself within three years, on average.
The beauty of a greywater system is that it can easily be connected to your existing irrigation system. Your energy saving is even more effective if you have a drip irrigation system, designed to use 30-50% less water than traditional irrigation methods. Drip irrigation delivers hydration directly to the root of the plant where it’s most needed so making the most of every drop in water stressed areas. Along with Xeriscaping – what we call “Water-Wise” gardening – it is the latest landscaping trend in water conservation.
Of course, it can never do any harm to add rainwater tanks to the mix. Harvest rainwater for filling the pool, washing the car, doing laundry and dishes, and flushing toilets. It can obviously be used for irrigation but it makes sense to use the rainwater for those water-greedy tasks where greywater shouldn’t be used. Rainwater tanks too are quite affordable from around R2100 for a 1000 litre tank to around R11100 for a 10 000 litre tank, more than enough for a family of four.
Saving Energy by being Water-Wise
Saving energy is another important aspect to being Water-Wise. You may not see immediately how these two resources are connected, but think of a geyser without insulation. It experiences greater fluctuations in temperature so when you go to bath or shower, you run the water for longer until the hot water eventually comes through. Those incremental amounts of water and energy wasted eventually add up to huge wastage. With the correct insulation on your geyser, the water stays warmer for longer in between use, resulting in marked energy and water savings.
7 Water-Wise Tips:
1.Don’t leave the tap running while washing your hands or brushing your teeth.
2.Use a self-closing nozzle on your hose, particularly if you’re washing your car or watering plants.
3.Wash your car using a bucket and sponge.
4.Repair any leaks and install aerators and flow-reducing valves on your taps.
5.Install a low-flow shower head and dual-flush mechanism on your toilet.
6.Shower rather than bath, and bathe the kids together.
7.Check your pool for leaks and cover to prevent excess evaporation.
All the money you’ll be saving on your water and energy bills could help you pay off your mortgage faster; save towards retirement; or cover your children’s study costs!