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Saving, Reusing and Cutting Water Costs

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 24 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Reuse Recycle Environment Reduce Water

The three key words for saving any valuable resource are reduce, reuse and recycle, and they apply to water as much as anything else on the 'green' agenda. Those words are also in their order of priority. There's a lot of focus on recycling our waste, whether it's water, paper plastic, all sorts of things. But the first step is to reduce your usage, then reuse what you can, before finally recycling it.

With other utilities the main way of saving money is to switch between suppliers to get the best deal at any one time. This option isn't open to water users as no-one has yet come up with a way of buying water from a company that's different to the one that pipes it to your house. But they managed it with gas, electricity and telephones, so perhaps that not as far away as we think.

Consider a Water Meter

You might want to consider going on a water meter, rather than on a flat rate, if you aren't on one already. It has been calculated that most people, on average, are better off on water meters but it does depend on your usage. There are calculators on various sites on the web that will help you with this.

The main advantage of a water meter is that it changes the way that you think about water use. When you know that leaving the tap on, wasting water while you brush your teeth is going to cost you more money than if you turn it off for those couple of minutes, it tends to make a difference.

Ways to Reduce Water Consumption

Other ways of saving water, and therefore money, so it's good for the environment and your pocket, generally centre around thinking about exactly what you want the water for and how much of it you really need.

Some examples are:

  • Cut down the amount of water you use in washing food and cooking it. Measure the amount you need for kettles and saucepans and don't wash food under a running tap, use a bowl.
  • This uses less water and you can then use it somewhere else when you're done.
  • Use water economy programmes on washing machines, and dishwashers, and don't run them unless you have enough for a full load. This saves electricity too.
  • In the bathroom, put a 'hippo' in the cistern, or a two litre plastic bottle filled with water, if you don't have a dual-flush toilet.
  • Have short showers rather than baths and don't run taps unnecessarily -- there's a plug in the sink so use it. And don't flush the toilet just to get rid of tissues and the like – put them in the bin.
  • Finally, keep your plumbing well maintained. Dripping taps and leaking pipes will eventually damage the fabric of the house so it makes sense to get them fixed as soon as possible.
  • Make sure pipes are well lagged for the winter too, to avoid burst pipes.

There are almost certainly many other examples but if you start thinking along those lines you'll come up with more very quickly.

Reuse and Recycling of Water

When it comes to reuse and recycling, because there aren't any recycling facilities for water, like many other waste items, they pretty much come down to the same thing. Sales of water butts have gone through the roof as gardeners realise they can capture rainwater and use it for the garden when hosepipe bans are in force.

The concept of 'grey' water is now well-known rather than being a term used by scientists and environmentalists, referring to water that only has a little dirt and soap in it. This can therefore be used again except for cooking and washing, where water quality is more important, and anything else would pose a health risk.

Grey Water Systems

In some countries on the continent, where environmental issues have been on the front page for longer than in the UK, it's been quite normal to have two separate plumbing systems in a house for many years. Clean water is piped to sinks, baths and machines that need it.

When it's been used, instead of being flushed down the drain, it's directed to a tank (with filters to take the worst out and improve the water quality) and then pumped and piped to other areas where less clean water is good enough. This might be for watering the garden, flushing the toilet or washing cars

Try Some Quick and Easy Tricks

Although putting in systems like that into a house in the UK will be good for the environment, it's expensive and therefore won't help our goal here of reducing costs. But reusing water in this way can be done with a little outlay. A small pump and a hose out of the bathroom window is all it would take in some houses to siphon bath water out into a butt in the garden.

And if your bathroom sink, shower and bath outlets don't join the main outflow (where the soiled water from the toilet joins in) for quite a distance, then it perhaps wouldn't cost too much to invest in a couple of lengths of plastic pipe and a junction or too to divert it into the gutter downpipe instead, then it will end up in your water butt automatically.

But be careful not to mix grey and clean water accidentally, the last thing you need to compromise on is water quality.

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