Maximise water efficiency

Australian households use around 400 litres of water a day. Incredibly, by using water-efficient products, our country could save $2 billion by 2030. Are you ready to stop watching your hard-earned cash go down the drain?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand where, when and how you are using your water. Become aware of any water leaks on your property, how long you and your family members shower for, and where you are wasting water. This will not only help you to reduce your water consumption, but it will also save you a massive amount of money.

This summer, make it your mission to monitor, reduce and reuse with these tips.

MONITOR

Your metre

One of the easiest ways to determine how much water you are using is by checking your water metre regularly – weekly or even daily in the initial stages. Take note of where and how you use water throughout the day and then check your water metre in the evening. This practice will help you to understand the areas of high water usage in your home. Often, positive changes in these areas will have the greatest impact.

Automatic monitoring systems

If you want to get really serious about saving water, you could look into installing an automatic monitoring system. These systems are relatively inexpensive and will monitor water use as frequently as every five to 10 minutes. The data-loggers fitted to your sub-metres collect information on the water used throughout your home and property. Sub-metres can be connected to areas such as amenities, kitchen and outdoor areas to monitor each separately. With this refined data, you will be able to see where and when you are using the most water and adjust accordingly.

There are a couple of options when it comes to automatic monitoring systems, including online or offline. Some companies that run the data-loggers will provide information immediately on the internet. They may also have the option of fitting an alarm or sending you an email or text if there are dramatic changes in water use. The offline system won’t automatically send your water usage data to your computer, so you will be required to download it.

REDUCE

Leaks

A dripping tap and visibly leaking toilet can seem insignificant at the time, but they can waste 20,000 and 60,000 litres of water respectively each year. Not only is it a huge waste of water, but you are also literally losing between $60 and $180 down the drain. Check that none of your water fittings are leaking for an easy fix to improve your water efficiency.

TOP TIP: To check if you have any leaks you haven’t noticed, take a water metre reading at the end of the day when there is little to no activity overnight and then again first thing in the morning.

Low-flow taps, showerheads and hose spray nozzles

A good low-flow tap gives you the impression of full flow with a reduced water volume. They do this by restricting the amount of water allowed to flow through them or by mixing air into the water flow, so it may not feel different, but your water consumption and bills will undoubtedly look different! 

Incredibly, a standard tap can use 15 to 18 litres per minute, while a standard showerhead uses 12 to 22 litres per minute. A water-efficient tap, on the other hand, can reduce water usage to as little as two litres per minute, while a water-efficient showerhead can save more than 26 litres of water each seven-minute shower, adding up to a total of 9,000 litres per person per year. If you are a family of four, replacing a non-water-efficient showerhead that flows at 15 litres per minute with a 4-star showerhead at six litres per minute will save 105,000 litres of water and close to $315 on water bills each year. 

TOP TIP: Keep a container of water in the fridge, so you don’t need to run water down the sink until it’s cool enough to drink.

Use a shower timer or alarm

It’s a well-known tip, but one we often forget. Make it your mission to purchase a shower timer or simply set an alarm for four minutes to make sure your showers aren’t excessive.

TOP TIP: If you have the option of playing music in the bathroom, choose your favourite song that goes for about four minutes. Hit play as you jump in the shower, and when you hear it stop, you know your time is up!

Check your thermostat

Make sure your hot water thermostat isn’t set too high. If it is, you will end up using excess cold water to bring it down to your preferred temperature. 

According to Australian law, water must be kept at a minimum of 60OC to prevent the growth of bacteria. Typically, hot water supply ranges between 65OC and 75OC.

TOP TIP: Consider investing in a thermostatic mixer. It will deliver water at the temperature you desire to avoid wasting water while you wait for it to heat up.

Insulate

Insulate your hot water pipes to keep the water warm. If you’re able to, install the hot water system as close as possible to where it is required so the water won’t have as far to travel.

Replace inefficient amenities with new, efficient models

Toilets, washing machines and dishwashers can all increase your water usage without you even knowing it. Check your water rating label to determine water use during each load of washing, and what cycle was used to determine this. If you have a 6-star machine and use 9.5 litres per load, you will save 18,000 litres each year compared to if you use a 3-star machine that uses 80 litres per wash. Similarly, you will use 3,500 litres more each year if you choose to use a 2-star machine that uses 19 litres per wash instead of a dishwasher that is 6-star and uses 9.5 litres per load. 

While you are reconsidering your washing machine and dishwasher, check your toilet’s water consumption as well. An old single-flush toilet usually uses about 12 litres of water per flush. A modern 4-star toilet will use 3.5 litres per flush. That’s a huge 50,000 litres of water and $150 saved on water bills each year.

REUSE

Washing fruit and vegetables

Instead of washing your fruit and vegetables under running water, fill the sink or even a pot up with water and wash your fruit and vegetables in that. You will reduce water consumption and a pot will allow you to take the used water outside to water your garden.

Use a shower bucket

Chances are, every time you step in the shower, you turn it on and run it until the temperature is right. Have you ever considered how much water you waste at the beginning of each shower? Next time, place a bucket under the running tap until it’s a comfortable temperature. You’ll be surprised by how much you collect. Then you can reuse it, whether it’s on the garden, to wash your fruit and vegetables, fill up your animals’ water bowl, or even place it in the fridge and drink it for yourself (provided it is clean enough to do so!).

Reuse excess drinking water

How often do you fill up a glass of water, drink half of it and tip the rest down the sink? Feed it to a thirsty house plant, pour it on your outdoor garden, or perhaps your animal will enjoy it!

Install a greywater system

The water that goes down the drain when you wash your hands or do your laundry is known as ‘greywater’. In other words, it is wastewater that doesn’t contain sewage. If you install a greywater system, it diverts the water and reuses it, so it doesn’t go to waste. An example of this is to divert water from your shower drain to flush the toilet. You will need a plumber to set up a greywater system, but it could be well worth the investment! 

While you may not be able to undertake everything on this list, merely becoming more water aware and actioning a handful of these tips will make a huge difference to your household water usage and, ultimately, your back pocket. Share these tips with your friends this summer, so we have as many people as possible taking steps toward a more water-efficient Australia.