2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record.
Coming off a seemingly never-ending drought, we recently witnessed the most devastating bushfires our country has ever seen.
While many Australians have been affected in one way or another, the world has been inspired by the bravery of our volunteer firefighting services, raising over $140 million in donations to help the recovery efforts.
Now is a more important time than ever to consider what we can do, however small or insignificant, to help preserve our most precious commodity and our beautiful landscapes. We’ve constructed a simple guide on some steps that urban-dwelling Aussies can take to reduce and conserve their daily water usage around the home.
In terms of average water use in Australia, the bathroom is by far the most significant room in the house. It is estimated that over 60% of indoor water use occurs in the bathroom, with over half of that coming via the shower.
One of the most effective ways in which to combat shower water waste is by installing a water efficient shower head. Water efficient shower heads can save up to 15 litres per four-minute shower, which equates to over 5000L per person in the household per year. Most modern showers allow for a simple home installation, but those lacking DIY proficiency can call their local plumber for a relatively inexpensive install.
Keeping a bucket in the shower to fill while the water warms (and while showering) is a fantastic way to conserve the excess water wasted in showering. This water can then be used to water your plants or garden. Failing that, simply turning off the shower while soaping and shampooing can save hundreds of litres per year.
Toilet flushing is the next biggest hitter in water use, particularly in older homes, which can use up to 20L per flush. Make sure you have a half flush. It’s possible to hook up your grey water (or rain water) to flush the toilet. There are also toilets that have a hand washing tap built in, where the water drains into the cistern to flush.
And, if you have a bath, it’s relatively easy to siphon the water out if it’s higher than your garden/ground level is.
The kitchen is another room in which some elementary changes to water use can have a profound impact.
Much like keeping a bucket in the shower, a jug kept by the sink can be filled while water is warming, which can in turn be used on plants. Alternatively, partially boiling the kettle is a great and effective way to warm dishwashing water.
Most modern dishwashers come with an eco-setting for reduced water consumption, and it’s important to ensure dishwashers are properly stacked and full before running them.
Many chefs advocate for washing vegetables in a bowl rather than under the tap, and recommend roasting over steaming or boiling them, which can reduce up to 60% of their antioxidants, as well as reducing the flavour and texture of those delicious veggies!
Another step that could be considered to indirectly reduce water use is moderating the consumption of some of our favourite foods. Did you know that over 15,000 litres of water are required to produce 1kg of beef? It gets even worse for chocolate lovers – over 17,000L is used for every kilo produced. Consider Meatless Mondays, which can reduce almost one metric tonne in annual CO2 emissions for the average meat eater. Nutritionists also argue that there are benefits to heart health, digestion and cholesterol levels with the introduction of as little as one vegetarian meal per week. Consider it a great opportunity to try some of the outstanding plant-based restaurants and cafes in the Newtown area!
When it comes to the laundry, try only to wash full loads of clothes that really need it. Consider re-wearing some items on another day if they’re still clean, and don’t feel the need to wash materials that don’t really require it, such as denim. Grass loves grey water, so consider catching some of your rinse cycle water in a bucket if you can, or using a grey water extension hose and keeping it for the lawn.
The garden, many urban Australian’s own little slice of paradise, is another part of the home that can benefit, and even flourish from the introduction of some simple water-saving techniques.
Veggie-growing enthusiasts may look to investing in a greenhouse, which requires less-frequent watering due to slower evaporation.
Adding a layer of mulch to your topsoil will not only reduce the amount of water required for your plants, but it will improve their health also. This can be enhanced by installing a DIY drip irrigation system. Simply cut the bottom off some recycled plastic bottles and pierce the lid with some holes – water will drip slowly through to your plant’s roots after watering.
Lastly, every Australian garden (and forgetful waterer) can benefit from the introduction of some drought-tolerant plants. Most local nurseries service a wide array of these plants given our current climate, and the range available can be truly staggering. There are a great range of nurseries and hardware stores around the Alexandria/Erskineville area, and it’s a fantastic way to brighten up the home.
Remember to check out Sydney Water’s “Love Water” page, where everyday Australians are sharing their water saving teams on social media via the #manywaystosave hashtag.