Conserving water is everyone’s responsibility. Although we’re fortunate to have an abundance of clean water, it’s up to us to use it wisely – for the sake of our natural environment and for future generations.
Did you know that the average Canadian uses about 120,000 litres (26,396 gallons) per year? In Kimberley, we use far more than the average – plus, the demand for water in the summer more than doubles. Unfortunately, at least half of our water consumption is wasteful.
There are many simple, effective steps you can take to improve your household water efficiency. We’ve gathered information and suggestions for you here. Click on the links below to start saving water!
- How much water does your lawn need?
- Watering equipment
- Natural lawn care
- Other ways to save water outside
- Inside the home
- Leaking toilets
- Leaking faucets & pipes
- Electronic Sensory Devices
- Retrofit: Toilets
- Retrofit: Showerheads & faucets
During the growing season, water use can increase by as much as 50 percent. While lawns require a lot of water, much of this water is wasted – lost due to over-watering and evaporation. During the hottest months (July - August), you only need an inch and a half to two inches (2.5 - 5cm) of water to your lawn each week, divided into two or three applications depending on rainfall amounts. Apply less water during spring and fall, perhaps one-half inch to one inch (1.25 - 2.5cm) per week.
Watering equipment also plays a part in how much water is saved and lost. Ideally, sprinklers should be suited to the size and shape of the lawn. That way, you avoid watering driveways and sidewalks. Installing timers on outdoor taps can be a wise investment.
Sprinklers that lay water down in a flat pattern are better than oscillating sprinklers that lose as much as 50 percent of what they disperse through evaporation. Efficient sprinklers provide an even spray of large, fat drops, not a fine mist. Use devices (i.e., rain sensors, rain switches) that time or measure the amount of water that has been applied, and automatically shut off the supply when it is raining. Drip irrigation systems, which apply water only to the roots zone, are the most efficient – and the most expensive – alternative.
The water you use to water your lawn doesn't have to come out of a tap. A cistern, which captures and stores rainwater, can be used as a source of irrigation water. A rain barrel can adequately fulfill this function.
Finally, consider a low-maintenance landscape – one that requires little more water than nature provides. Often called Xeriscaping, the principles of a low-maintenance landscape are as follows:
- A reduced amount of lawn;
- Proper plant selection making use of native grasses, shrubs and trees;
- The use of rain barrels / roof drainage
- Mulching to reduce evaporative losses around shrubs and trees;
- Improvements to soils;
- A proper irrigation system and planned maintenance.
The most significant savings of course, come from a reduction in lawn area and switching from exotic plant forms to native species
that require less water. In general, lawn areas should not exceed what is useful for play and social activities, and should be limited to the backyard where the family spends the majority of its time.
Most lawns don't need more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water per week. Typically, residential lawns only need one hour of sprinkling per week to stay healthy. Here’s how to maximize the effectiveness of your lawn care:
- Water your lawn in the morning rather than in the evening to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. Residents with automatic irrigation systems should set them to operate between 4 and 6 a.m., when demand on the water system is low.
- Aerate your lawn by punching holes in it about 12 cm apart to permit better absorption of water.
- Rake in some compost and you'll improve moisture retention and reduce the need for fertilizer.
- Reduce weeds to lessen the competition for water and fertilizer. Let your grass grow longer to create a healthier root system.
- An easy way to figure out if you have watered your lawn enough is to place an upside-down Frisbee where your sprinkler is spraying. When the Frisbee is full of water, that part of your lawn has had enough water for a whole week.
- Use a bucket and sponge to clean your vehicle, and then only spray at the end to rinse off the soap.
- Sweep your driveway instead of spraying it with a hose.
- Cover swimming pools when they are not in use. This reduces evaporation dramatically.
- Squirt guns or small plastic containers filled with water are as effective at keeping children cool on a hot day as running a sprinkler.
- Operate decorative fountains only when you’re there to enjoy them.
Based on the three rules of water conservation – reduce, repair and retrofit – a typical household can reduce water consumption by 40 percent or more, with little or no effect on lifestyle.
Much of the water "consumed" in our daily activities is simply wasted. Taps are left running while we brush our teeth. Dishwashers and laundry machines are operated without full loads. Everywhere we use water there is room for improvement. Here are just a few examples for both indoor and outdoor water use:
- Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket or flush it unnecessarily.
- A quick shower uses less hot water than a full tub (and saves energy too). Try plugging your bathtub while having a shower, you’ll get a great idea how much you use each time you shower.
- Avoid running water when brushing teeth, shaving, washing up and cleaning – fill a cup or the sink with some water when doing these tasks and you could reduce water use by 60 to 80 per cent.
- Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting your tap run to get cold water when you want a drink. (Rinse the bottle every few days.)
- When washing a car, fill a bucket with water and use a sponge. This can save about 300 litres of water.
Even if you are carefully watching your water usage, you could still be using a lot of extra water due to leaking appliances or plumbing fixtures. It is important to make sure that water is not slipping away due to undetected leaks in your system. Learn to check for leaks around your house.
The toilet is a common source of unnoticed leaks. Undetected, hundreds of litres of water can be wasted each day. A toilet that continues to run after flushing, if the leak is large enough, can waste up to 200,000 litres of water in a single year! Often leaks occur when the toilet is out of adjustment or parts are worn. To tell if your toilet is leaking:
- Listen carefully to it. If you hear the sound of running water, your toilet is leaking.
- Add food colouring or dye to the toilet tank and wait 20 minutes. If coloured water appears in the toilet bowl, a leak is present. Toilet leaks are not hard to fix and you can ask for advice at your local hardware store.
Toilet leaks are often due to a flush valve or flapper valve that isn't sitting properly in the valve seat, bent or misaligned flush valve lift wires or a corroded valve seat. All of these can be fixed easily and inexpensively.
To get at the valve seat, which surrounds the outlet hole at the bottom of the tank, you must first empty the tank. This is accomplished by turning off the inlet tap under the tank and flushing the toilet, making sure to keep depressing the flush lever until no more water drains out of the tank. Then, holding the valve out of the way, sand the corroded or warped valve seat smooth with a piece of emery cloth.
Leaking faucets are often caused by a worn out washer that costs pennies to replace. Most hardware stores will have faucet repair kits with illustrations showing how to replace a washer.
Remember to check all faucets and pipes periodically. Watch for drips, and quickly replace faulty parts. A leaking faucet can waste from 280 to 750 L of water in a week.
These devices can be purchased at your local hardware store and placed under major household appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines that may spring leaks. The device alerts you as soon as water starts to collect underneath.
Retrofit means adapting or replacing an older water-using fixture or appliance with one of the many water-efficient devices now on the market. While these solutions cost more, they also save the most water and money. Retrofitting offers considerable water saving potential in the home and business.
When it comes to retrofitting, the prime fixture to target is the toilet. If the toilet is more than fifteen years old – which means it probably uses about 18 or more litres of water per flush – you can replace it with an ultra-low-volume (ULV) toilet, that uses 4.8 litres per flush.
If you decide that it is time for a toilet replacement in your home or business, you are well on your way to significant water savings that you can bank on over the life of the toilet. Replacing an 18 litre per flush toilet with an ultra-low-volume (ULV) 4.8 litre flush model represents a more than 70 percent savings in water flushed and will cut indoor water use by about 35 percent. Keep in mind that 18 litres per flush, assuming 4 flushes per person per day, translates into nearly 30,000 litres of clean, fresh water per year just to get rid of 650 litres of body waste. A 4.8 litre flush toilet only uses about 8,500 litres to do the same task. Low flush toilets are available for less than $150.00 at most plumbing and supply stores.
Remember, the ULV toilet not only uses less water, it produces less wastewater.
After the toilet, the shower and bath consume the most water inside the home. Conventional showerheads have flow rates up to 15 to 20 litres per minute. A properly designed low-flow showerhead can reduce that flow by half and still provide proper shower performance. Low-flow showerheads can be purchased in most plumbing supply outlets. Reducing the use of hot water also saves you money on your heating bills.
Depending on your preference for finish and appearance, you can select a serviceable low-flow showerhead starting at around ten dollars. Consider one with a shut-off button. The advantage of the shut-off button is that it allows you to be really water efficient if you so choose, by being able to interrupt the flow while you lather up or shampoo, and then resume at the same flow rate and temperature.
Beware of the type of showerhead that produces such a fine mist that the water is quite cool by the time it reaches your feet. And, stay away from so-called flow restrictors that are inserted inside your existing showerhead. They look like a small plastic washer and can produce a fierce, stinging spray pattern that may significantly reduce the enjoyment of taking a shower.
Conventional faucets have an average flow rate of 13.5 litres of water per minute. Install low flow aerators to reduce this flow. In the bathroom, a flow rate of 2 litres per minute should do the trick, and in the kitchen a flow rate of 6 to 9 litres per minute is sufficient. Don't bother retrofitting the tap in the utility sink; it is intended to provide large volumes of water quickly, for example, for cleaning or washing, such that low flows will only inconvenience the user.