Our growing population, agricultural needs, inefficient appliances and sometimes inconsiderate consumer behaviour put pressure on our water supplies. Here are some tips on how you can conserve water — and save money.
For most of us, water is there at the turn of the tap. We easily take it for granted — and may waste it.
These days most water authorities urge people to reduce their water use, and supply brochures and pamphlets with savings tips. For them, conserving water means less need to spend money on new dams — instead, they can spend it on improving existing infrastructure.
For you, conserving water is likely to mean saving money — the more you use, the more you pay.
In addition, if you're also saving hot water (for example, in the shower), you'll reduce your energy bill.
In the bathroom
• Buy a low-flow shower head.
• Try to limit your shower to about 5 minutes.
• If you have an older-style single-flush toilet, convert it to dual-flush cistern. When you replace an existing toilet, install a modern dual-flush cistern and pan.
• Install water-efficient taps.
• Aerators give the feel of a higher flowrate. They're simply screwed onto the end of a tap and reduce the flowrate while aerating the water.
• Switch off the tap while you're brushing your teeth or shaving.
In the kitchen
• Always fully load your dishwasher, as you can't adjust the water level to the load — it always uses the amount for a full load.
• If you wash your dishes by hand, and when washing your "veggies", don't do it under running water. Use a plug, and fill the sink with only the amount of water you need.
In the laundry
• Consider buying a front loader. They may be more expensive to buy than top loaders, but they're much more water and energy-efficient, use less detergent and will save you money in the long run.
• Washing a full load is the most water-efficient. If you don't, you can adjust the water level accordingly on many machines. If you only have a few items to wash, do it by hand.
Looking for leaks
Leaks can be obvious (for example, a dripping tap) or hidden (such as a damaged pipe). Either way, they can waste a lot of water — and your money.
• Fix leaks as soon as you find them.
• A toilet may leak without any visible signs. To check, pour some drops of food colouring in the cistern. If after a while the colour appears in the pan (without flushing), you have a leak.
• You can use your water meter to check your system for hidden leaks. Turn off all the taps and other water users in your home. Note your meter's reading. Check the reading again after some hours (for example, overnight) — if it's different, you have a leak.
In the garden
• The right garden design, plant selection and watering tips depend a lot on where you live and how big your property is.
• Group plants with similar water needs.
• Don't water your garden in the heat of the day or when it's very windy, as a lot of water will evaporate or blow away before it can reach the roots.
• Give your garden and lawn a good soak every two to four days in hot weather (about half as often in cool weather, and as needed in rainy season), rather than watering a little bit every day. That'll encourage deeper root growth.
• Don't cut your lawn shorter than to 3 or 4 centimetres, so the blades can still shade each other.
• Water the base of plants rather than their leaves.
• Putting mulch on your garden will greatly reduce evaporation.
• Use a sprinkler system with a timer, so you don't have to think about switching it on and off all the time.
• Rainwater is ideal for watering your garden. Contact your water authority and local council for tips and requirements on how to install and maintain a rainwater tank.
• Hosing down paths or driveways can waste up to 1000 L per hour. Sweeping them with a broom is cheaper and quicker.
• Playing under a sprinkler or with a hose may be fun for the kids, but it also wastes up to 1000 L of water per hour.