Flushed away!

By Nicky Gibbs and Daniel Carriço da Silva [email protected]

This article has been co-written by Nicky Gibbs of Rimini Projects and Daniel Carriço da Silva of Aqualgar.

Over the last half century, water consumption has trebled, with the greater proportion of that increase being for washing and flushing toilets.

In certain dry areas of the US, a staggering 80% of the average household water consumption is used to water lawns, hose down terraces and clean cars.

One thing I guess most of us do without thinking is run the tap when we brush our teeth. But did you know that if you do two minutes of brushing wastes about 12 litres of water.

Multiply that up and the average family of four could be wasting almost 100 litres a day.

Bathing and showering also use significant amounts of water. The average bath uses 80 litres of water. A five minute shower consumes about 35 litres and a power-shower 75 litres.

It is quite startling how much water we use in an average day. But the examples mentioned are a drop in the ocean: include the water consumption to produce the food you eat, clothes you wear and products you use in your home, and your average water footprint is significantly wetter.

But there are a variety of ways to reduce water consumption, inside and out, and save money.

Simple changes in lifestyle and investing in water-saving fixtures and fittings can significantly lower usage, and many cost little or nothing.

The simplest ways to reduce the water you use can have the biggest impact. An obvious one is not to run the tap when brushing your teeth; modern dishwashers use less water than washing by hand, and always run full loads at low-temperature or eco settings.

If, like me, you have the best intentions, but would find it easier if you didn’t have to think about it, there are some simple things you can install:

1. Install dual flush or low flush toilets. You can put a brick in the cistern to reduce the water used. But beware! If you reduce the water too much, the flush may not remove all waste at once and you may end up flushing twice.

2. Filters/aerators on all your taps can reduce water usage by up to 15% by reducing water flow.

3. There are also devices available that can be inserted into the showerhead to reduce flow. Increasing pressure will ensure that the water flow still feels substantial.

If you are planning a major refurbishment on a home, then it’s a good idea to give serious consideration to replacing all the pipework.

Properties built in the 1980s used galvanised iron pipes. They get clogged with limescale, degrade and also lose heat. So replacing them with pipes that meet new build regulations will remove all those problems.

Of course, it’s not just inside that water savings can be made, but outside too. Maintaining gardens and running an outdoor pool both require fairly significant water consumption.

To reduce watering bills in the garden, consider installing a rainwater collection system, or if you’re building a new home installing a gray water system.

This will take waste water from sinks, baths and showers and recycle it into the irrigation system.

Evaporation is a major cause of water loss from swimming pools, and is at the highest in early evening when the air cools and the water remains warm.

If you don’t like pool covers (although they are still the most effective solution), there are now liquid pool covers.

Using a non-toxic, biodegradable substance that adds surface tension to the water molecules to reduce their ability to vaporize, a liquid cover can inhibit evaporation by up to 40% and 17% to 30% energy cost saving (if its heated).

Increasing shade and reducing wind exposure around the pool will also help reduce evaporation. Shading the pool has the added bonus of reducing the amount of chemicals you need to use too.

Finally, consider installing a multi-cyclone filter. These sit in front of your normal pool filter.

They help extend the life of the pool filter, and use much less water – typically only 15 litres to clean. The pool filter needs around 100 to 200 litres to clean.

A multi-cyclone filter is more expensive (about 500 Euros), but if your pool gets used a lot, you could get payback in your first year.

Like many things in life, it’s the simple stuff that makes the biggest difference. And when it comes to water consumption, there’s a potential saving of 161,370 litres a year for the average family – enough to fill almost two-and-a-half 5m by 10m swimming pools.