A Transition Streets water challenge

Saving water

Since completing the first challenge of turning off our taps for a day (only using one bucket of water each for the day), we have finished the second: seeing how much water we could save over a week. (The challenge is part of the Transition Streets Challenge.) We used 1306 litres for the week, an average of 37.4 litres per person per day for the 5 of us (including my father who lives in a unit on the same block).

I can’t find the average daily water usage per person for the Hunter (for a household it is 480 litres), but in Melbourne the average for 2011-12 was 149 litres per day. That’s almost four times as much water per person every day! Our normal usage is around 55 litres per person. We normally would have done another two or three loads of washing, so if we add 168 litres (for three loads in our water efficient washing machine) we still would have only used 42 litres per person per day.

Besides fewer loads of washing, we didn’t take drastic action, but were just careful about how we used water. Our main new water saving strategy was based on a discovery from the day we turned off our taps. We only used the half flush for the toilet for number 2s! It worked just as well.

It helps not to be obsessed with “cleanliness” but there are many ways we can save water without sacrificing basic hygiene. Here are some of the things we did (or already do) to save water include:

  1. Capturing water in 3 litre bottles while waiting for hot water to come through at the kitchen sink. Our kitchen is quite a distance from our hot water system so we have to use 4.5 – 6 litres before we get hot water. We then use the water from the bottles on the garden, for cooking, or to rinse fruit and vegies.
  2. Not leaving the tap running while cleaning our teeth (we used a cup), washing fruit and vegies (we used a basin), shaving, washing our hands (we turn on the tap to wet our hands and to rinse them) and so on.
  3. Not having daily showers – we often have one every two days and have a good wash from the basin in between. During summer we have more, but we probably don’t have as many showers as most Australians. We also try to keep them short and have water saving shower heads.
  4. Using a water tank for the garden.
  5. Thinking about how often we have to wash clothes and buying a water efficient front-loader washing machine.
  6. Not flushing the toilet every time. Remember the saying
    If it’s yellow, let it mellow;
    If it’s brown, wash it down.
  7. Not washing the car unless it really needs it.
  8. Not having a pool.
  9. Having aerators on most of our taps.
  10. Using a trigger nozzle on one of our garden hoses, and will get one for the other.
  11. Mulching the garden and being aware of how to water effectively.
  12. Fixing leaks as soon as possible

Doing the week-long challenge was very helping in making us think frequently and critically about the water we were using, and how we could use it more efficiently. We used it as an opportunity to involve the kids (a video is coming!) and to have chats about how it was going. It helped challenge our water habits, and allowed us to discover new behaviours we can sustain long-term. We expect that doing the challenge for a week we will lead to lasting changes in our habits for all of us. Particularly for our kids; that’s a lot of water saved over their lifetime! It might help to repeat it every year or so as a reminder.

Would you consider doing something like this with your family? How low can you go?

I’d love to hear how you go and what tips you have for saving water.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog),  and you might like to look at:

  1. Turning off the taps
  2. What is the Transition Streets Challenge?
  3. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?
  4. Consumption and the Transition movement
  5. 10 ways to reduce your consumption

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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