saving water

Whether you’re on the mains or have a well or are part of a group water scheme there are reasons beyond saving money on the inevitable water charges. Drinking water is being turned into a commodity like oil in many parts of the world and there’s a time coming in the near future when water waste will be frowned on in Ireland the same way it is in drier countries. Ever since I read a Kenyan blogger comment on how weird it is for Europeans to flush their loos with drinking water that’s been on my mind.

So, ever looking for ways to save water beyond rain-water harvesting, I have a few more suggestions, some of which are really quite cheap but not well publicised. Others cost a bit more in the short term but will help keep your bills down and your level of positive environmental effect up. The money saved is not to be sniffed at. We still are not sure what the actual cost per household will be but if you could cut your metered water use by nearly two thirds (and you can) you could save a couple of hundred euro a year in a five person house, when the tax is in full flight. If you get in early with these little tweaks, by the time the charges start in January 2015 you’ll be ahead of the game.

You probably need a new shower head.

Shower heads in much of Ireland take a pounding from soft water and need to be cleaned regularly, especially if you don’t want to over-heat and wear out an electric shower, but they also generally use a lot more water than necessary. If you google “energy efficient shower heads” you’ll find stockists that have shower heads that will reduce usage by a full two thirds.Normal shower heads, the ones that we mostly use, have a flow of about 15 litres per minute with some of the older, fancier ‘rain heads’ using about 25 litres per minute. If you spend €20 to €30 you can have one that uses about 4 litres per minute without losing flow and without stressing your electric shower.

If you want to find out what your shower uses per minute, stick a bucket under it, switch it on at the level you use for fifteen seconds, tip it into a measuring jug and multiply by four. While you’re thinking about your shower, there are also water efficient taps easily available and if you want to be really fancy you could get those ones with the sensors that switch off automatically when your hands are away from it.

And your loo could do with an update too…

I fully expected to tell you that this was going to be pricey but worth it. Not at all. While you could switch to a dual flush cistern that would cost a good bit there are solutions that cost about €5. The old way to drop the volume of your flush was to put a brick or two in the cistern. It’s free and fairly effective but the shape of the cistern can limit what you can fit in there. Now you can buy a thing called a Hippo Bag that inflates but stays under the waterline and displaces a lot more water than a brick by fitting around the innards of the cistern. As a plus, they are adjustable unlike a brick…

There’s another rather nifty water restrictor that runs a pipe from your bathroom sink directly to the cistern, using the grey water from hand washing and teeth brushing to flush the toilet. They still allow the mains to fill the cistern if necessary and they have an overflow like your attic tank that allows the water down the drain if the cistern is full They cost a bit more, at around €120 but they alone could save up to a hundred euro per year in a five person house.

While some might find a larger rain-barrel system a little tricky or pricey there are a lot of cheap and simple ways to avoid paying a fortune to Irish Water and take care of the environment too.

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