Thursday, October 04, 2012

Basic Household Water Saving

Now that we’ve gone over some of the things involved in the water and wastewater treatment processes, let’s get into water conservation!

Above is the table that breaks down indoor (emphasis on “indoor”) household water usage. Most water used is a result of toilets, followed by clothes washing, showers, and then faucets.

A seemingly simple thing to do would be to change your habits; that is, use less water. Flush less often (ewww), turn off your faucet sooner, don’t open your faucet as much so less water comes out, take shorter showers, etc. But none of these things are easy to do because people are hard to change. I know I waste water taking long showers, yet I still do it because it feels good. I also leave the tap on when brushing my teeth to hear the water run, and turn the faucet on full blast since the higher pressure feels good. It’s not a lost cause!

If you’re as stubborn and unchangeable as me, then “hard” changes may be more up your alley. By which I mean, making hard and permanent changes to your water fixtures. Get a low flow toilet, a more efficient machine for dishes and/or clothes, add a low flow aerator for faucets, a low flow shower head, or an attachment that shuts your water off quickly. One of the best attachments that I’ve found is a lower flow aerator for the kitchen sink with a button on the end. Pressing the button immediately turns the water off or on – great for when soaping up your hands or dishes.

What flow rate constitutes low flow?

Off the top of my head, the standard “low flow toilet” uses 6 liters per flush. These used to be terrible, but they have improved significantly over the years from my memory. If I remember right, older toilets used anywhere from about 10 to 20 liters per flush. So even if you have to flush twice with low flows, it may still be less than one flush using an older toilet. Shop around!

When it comes to low flow fixtures, I do not remember the “official” flow rate that defines it as being low flow. However, the one that I’ve been using is about 3 gpm, which may be a bit on the higher side. I have seen others with 1.5 to 2.0 gpm (3.8-ish liters per gallon), and even some with flow rates that can be adjusted with a screwdriver. And if you are loaded, then do look into automatic faucets that turn on/off with a sensor.

One thing to think long and hard about is a waterless urinal. The only experience I’ve had with one was terrible. It was one of those urinals that never flushed and used a “cup” at the bottom with oil acting as sort of valve (i.e. the less dense oil floats on top of the urine and blocks the drain and accompanying smell). Aside from the cup having to be replaced every so often, have you ever been in an alley or public washroom that’s been “christened”? Okay, now replace the wall and floor in the public washroom/alley with a urinal in your very own home. I've heard that some of them do flush every so often though -- not so "waterless"? As for doing your own cleaning: if you have the cup and oil model, the life of the cup will likely wear down with every ounce of liquid that passes through.

Outdoor water is also a big thing to think about if you live in a house. You use water to “feed” your plants, wash your car or other vehicles, clean the exterior of your home, fill the pool, etc. Maybe you don’t need a pool, you can fill a bucket to wash your car and/or home with a sponge, or just not do it at all. Obviously, you probably do want to do it. Change your habits or make hard changes to your fixtures. The lawn and garden, though, is a topic in itself. See you later?

So anyways, do you drink out of your toilet, the washing machine, or your laundry sink? I am going to guess “no”. Chances are that you might not be around when your pet or child does though – okay, maybe not from the toilet for kids.

Where am I going with this?

If you don’t drink from certain faucets or outlets, and the risk of someone or something inadvertently drinking out of them is very low, then maybe you could use an alternative water source. The showers and faucets are common “drink getting” areas though. This is where we go into rainwater and greywater – both of which I will cover later. There are lots of safety and legal issues that come along with these systems.