Did you know that we Canadians use more water per capita than any other nation on Earth? And that we in B.C. are the worst offenders, using 490 litres of fresh water per day, 50% more than the national average?
Does that matter? We do, after all, live in a rain forest.
The answer should be obvious: Yes, we do need to manage our consumption because, setting environmental issues aside, our water supply is usually feast or famine.
From fall through spring we traditionally have lots of rain and the rivers run high. But come a hot, dry summer, it’s another story as we’ve seen repeatedly in recent years by the need to manually adjust the outflow of Cowichan Lake to accommodate fish runs.
Five of the hottest years on record–years, not summers–have occurred since the turn of the century and there’s no reason to think that it’s going to change or get better.
So, what can we as individual homeowners do to help make our water supply go further? We can, in fact, do a lot without pain or real sacrifice.
Let’s begin with water consumption and conservation in the bathroom.
- Just shortening our shower by two minutes can save 40 litres of water; showering for less than five minutes saves even more
- Not letting the tap run while brushing our teeth can save 10 litres; for a family of four this works out to as much as 320 litres per week
- Plugging the sink instead of letting water run while shaving with a razor saves 360-plus litres per month; not running water while washing our hair can save 160 l/pm
- Not flushing facial tissue or similar flimsies saves 13 litres of water each non-flush
- A duel-flush toilet for liquid and solid wastes has obvious benefits; traditional toilets account for 30% of indoor water use
- Water aerators on faucets reduce water consumption by mixing it with air
- Low-flow showerheads can save as much as 360 litres of water during a 10-minute shower
- Turn taps fully off
The dishwasher is one of the worst offenders
- Do full loads using the most efficient energy and water settings
- Don’t let the water run while washing dishes by hand. Fill one sink with wash water, the other with rinse water
- Pre-soak sticky saucepans and scrape rather than rinse dishes under running water before loading the dishwasher
- Ditto when cleaning sticky fruits or veggies from plates; rinse them in a stoppered sink or dish pan
- Drink from one glass/water bottle per day from a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge
- Don’t use larger saucepans than necessary (bonus: cooking with less water enhances the flavour)
- Reuse water from cooked, steamed veggies for soups and from washing veggies, fruits to water houseplants
- Install an instant water heater near the sink–no more having to run water to warm OR capture running water for watering houseplants
When doing laundry
- Be sure each cycle is full or adjust the level to suit the size of the load
- Use cold water as much as possible
- Use the ‘suds saver’ mode to reuse clean rinse water for washing the next load
- Use a high efficiency washing machine that requires 40% less water than standard models–up to 32 litres per load
Beware of what the Cowichan Valley Regional District calls ‘Water Thieves’
- Leaky toilets or toilets that keep running after flushing can waste thousands of litres per year. Veridis Plumbing can help you determine leaks with a simple dye test and repair or replace your toilet
- Equally wasteful offenders are leaky faucets (as much as 5 litres of water daily each) and showerheads, both of which are inexpensive and easy to repair or replace
- Replace your old 13-20 litres per flush toilet with a high-efficiency 3-6 litres per flush model for which the CVRD (www.cvrd.bc.ca) offers a $75 flush toilet rebate program. (And be sure to dispose of the old toilet properly at the Bings Creek, Peerless Road or Meade Creek recycling depots)
- Replace your top loading dishwasher with a front loading model which uses as little as a third as much water
Still not impressed? Then try this: A family of four can save 60,000 litres of water per year simply by installing an efficient low-flush toilet!
What’s in it for us? While we may not see any visible return in our daily living habits, we’ll help provide more water in our streams for fish habitat and ecosystems, improve groundwater and aquifers, dispose of less sewage into the environment, reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, lower costs for providing water services, defer the need for expensive water treatment upgrades or new water sources, and improve resiliency to drought or other impacts from climate change.