|Water: waste not, want not
By: John Gibbons
As our world becomes more and more populated, and with increasing numbers of people choosing to live near big urban areas, the task of providing a clean, safe and reliable supply of water is one which is going to cost each and every Irish householder dearly over the coming years.
The introduction of pay-by-use water charges is practically inevitable in this country, and indeed, in many urban centres water metering is now an accepted fact of life…and is it expensive!
Many new homes under construction at the moment are being fitted with water metering devices in preparation for the introduction of the “pay by use” system of charging for water.
For some, the very notion of having to pay for water in a country which gets copious amounts of rainfall every year seems almost laughable. But the fact is that the east coast of Ireland, including the greater Dublin area, is facing potentially severe water shortages in the coming decades due to changing rainfall patterns that are being driven by climate change.
Government planning currently includes actively exploring at the option of channelling huge amounts of fresh water from the western seaboard across the country via a new canal or pipeline to make up some of the shortfall.
‘Waste not, want not’ was probably the best piece of advice your granny ever dispensed. The only way in which water consumption (and bills) can be reduced is if we are prepared to “think green” and explore the possibility of harvesting some of the rainwater with a view to using it for washing the car, flushing the toilet, watering the garden etc.
The idea of harvesting rain water is so simple, why didn’t someone think of doing it on a commercial basis before now? We didn’t have water metering, that’s why! Nothing focuses the mind more swiftly and sharply than the idea of having to part with our precious euros for every drop of water we use.
What is rain water harvesting?
Although it is a relatively new concept for Ireland, a number of companies are now offering products for rain water harvesting. Basically the system involves the installation of a special storage tank which collects rain water from the roof of your house using the existing gutter and down-pipe.
Once the water has been gathered (or harvested) it is then filtered and purified before being pumped to your attic storage tank. The unit is controlled by a special programmable Logic Controller which is timed to automatically activate the system when it rains (thereby shutting down your regular water supply) and to automatically re-establish the mains supply when all the rainwater has been used.
How much does it cost?
As we have seen, rainwater harvesting is a very new concept in Ireland, and the best advice is to shop around for the best deal. If you are building a new home you will more than likely be looking at all the renewable energy options on the market. If you are dealing with a reputable renewable energy heating company, they may be in a position to advise you on rainwater harvesting.
In the meantime, and with “pay by use” water metering charges just around the corner for a lot of us, it might be wise to look at the many ways in which we can all save water. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Fix any dripping taps….a single dripping tap could waste up to 90 litres of water a week!
- Fit a water saving device on your toilet cistern, and you could save up to three litres per flush.
- Buy a big barrel and put it under one of the down-pipes from your roof. Use the rain water to wash your hair and see it shine!
- Only use your washing machine when you have a full load. The average wash needs about 95 litres of water, and a full load uses less water than two half loads.
- Opting to have a five-minute shower every day instead of a bath could save you up to 400 litres of water a week.
- Only fill your kettle with enough water for your immediate needs. Not only will this save water, but it will also reduce your fuel bills.
- Try to ensure that your dishwasher and washing machine are ‘A or ‘A+’ rated appliances, as these are the most economical.
- Use the dirty water from your fish tank to water your houseplants. It is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and makes an excellent fertiliser.
- Did you know that a lawn sprinkler can use as much water in one hour as a family of four would use all day? Water your lawn sparingly, even in very dry weather, and NEVER more than once a week.
- Keep a bottle of cold water in the fridge at all times. This avoids having to run the cold tap for long periods in order to get a cold drink.
- Do not allow your children to leave the tap running while they are washing their teeth. This simple exercise can waste almost nine litres of water a minute…….and don’t do it yourself either!