Living in the City

Tuesday, January 10, 2006



In order to sustain earth’s water supply and reserve it for future generations, urgent measures must take place. On an international, national, regional, and personal level, water practices must be revised and rescheduled, so as to incorporate clever policies with new, more efficient technologies. Water consumption usually includes a relatively high percentage of water that is lost or wasted. If we can reduce this waste or the losses, we can save water and reduce the consumption. There are three easy ways to really make a difference in saving water:

1) Repair leaks.
2) Reduce daily consumption.
3) Recycle water.


The starting point in reducing wasted water is by always repairing damages that may arise to plumbing installation, taps and toilet cisterns in time. The most common, but not always as obvious damage is leakage. A leak of one drop per second wastes 10.000 litres of water a year. Most leaks are simple to find and easily fixed, at low or no cost. An easy way to check whether the water using appliances and devices leak is by regularly checking the water meter. To do so, you record the meter’s reading, after you have turned off all water taps inside and outside your home, and then, you return after 2 to 3 hours to check if the meter’s reading has changed. If it has changed, you most probably have a leak. Common sources of leaks are a toilet that is running, a constant drip in a sink or outdoor tap, a loose or dripping washer connection, or a sprinkler system.

Leaking toilets may cause more water waste than any other fixture in the home. Even a silent toilet leak (that’s one you normally can’t hear) will waste from 120 to 2000 litr. of water per day, while the ones you can hear will waste much, much more. Such wastage can normally be attributed to a faulty water level adjustment or to a leaky flapper. An easy way of testing whether your toilet leaks is by adding some food dye in the tank, leave it for 15 minutes, and then check into the bowl to see if the coloured water appears in the bowl.

Tap leak detection
Most tap leaks are plainly visible as drips coming out of the tap aerator. Occasionally, taps may leak in other places such as the on/off handle or in the pipes below the basin. If you are unsure if your tap is leaking you might try using your water meter to detect the leak. Leaks should be fixed immediately since they can quickly develop into a serious break. Temporary repairs are only temporary, and wrapping the pipe usually fails. Therefore professional help should be called.

Estimated tap leakage rates
60 drops per minute = 800 litr. per month90 drops per minute = 1200 litr. per month120 drops per minute = 1600 litr. per month

Detecting leaks in the irrigation system:
Inspect your sprinklers and drip sprayers regularly for leaks during the daytime. Fix irrigation system leaks quickly and check for water in the gutters or mud puddles. If you have an older irrigation system, over 50% and even more than 75% of the water can be lost to leaks.


Apart from repairing the leakages, one must always be aware of the amount of water he/she consumes and try to reduce it. The most important thing we all become conscious that simple, personal, everyday practices can really make a difference in overall water supply. Some advice on ways to save water is now presented:

Bathroom (Over half of all water use inside a house takes place in the bathroom):

Do not let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth. You use more than 20 litr. of water if you leave the tap running while you brush your teeth, while if you wet and rinse your brush you only use 1-2 litr. of water each time. If you shave with the water on, you use about 40 to 80 litr. of water each time, while if you fill the basin, you only use 1-3 litr. of water. Savings: up to 39-79 litr. each time you save.
Place a plastic container filled with water (or sand) in the tank of your conventional toilet, making sure it does not interfere with operation of the toilet’s flush mechanisms.This way we save water, by reducing the volume of water every time we flush in the bathroom.
Take shorter showers and less baths and don’t turn the tap on full. Turn off the water while soaping or shampooing. It is preferable to shower rather than bathing in the tub.
Store the water coming from rain and use it in the toilet.

Kitchen and Laundry
Simple practices that save a lot of water:

Use a plug in the sink where possible and do not fill the sink to the top each time you wash dishes (this will save a further 20 litres of water).
Wash fruits and vegetables in a basin, and not under running water. Use a vegetable brush.
Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the tap run until the water is cool.
Do not use water to defrost frozen foods; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading into the dishwasher; wash only full loads.
By being careful when hand washing clothes, floors, windows etc. you can save at least 4 litres per day.
Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
Use food wastes to make natural composting – by pilling it in the garden, instead of using the garbage disposal.

Landscape Irrigation and Other Outdoor Uses (depending on climate, up to 75% of a home’s total water use during the growing season is for outdoor purposes).

Watering plants.
Most water is wasted in your garden by watering when you plants do not need the water or by not maintaining the irrigation system. You can reduce the quantity of water used for irrigation by planting local native plants that require less water and are appropriate for your local climate conditions.
Water the garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best) this prevents evaporation during the day due to the sun. Do not water on windy days.
Water trees and bushes, which have deep root systems, longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants that require smaller amounts of water more often. Be attentive if you are manual watering by setting your oven timer or some other reminder to move the water promptly.
Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street or sidewalk.
Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation systems for trees and shrubs.
Use mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation from the soil surface and cut down on weed growth.
Remove thatch and aerate turf to encourage movement of water to the root zone.
Raise your lawn mower cutting height – longer grass blades help shade each other, reduce evaporation, and inhibit weed growth.
Minimize or eliminate fertilizing, which promotes new growth needing additional watering.

Washing the car:
Use a bucket to wash the car, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your car using a hose, you can use up to 600 liters of water. A trigger nozzle will save at least 200 liters of water. If you use a self service car wash, you use 60-80 liters. If you use a sponge and a bucket you use 20-60 liters. Savings could be in excess of 100-500 liters each time.

Other outdoor uses:
Sweep driveways, sidewalks and steps rather than hosing off. Using a broom, not a hose, to clean a driveway and steps saves hundreds of liters of water.
When using a hose, control the flow with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
Avoid purchasing recreational water toys which require a constant stream of water.
Do not install or use ornamental water features unless they recycle the water. Use signs to show the public that water is recycled. Do not operate during a drought.
Avoid to have or use a swimming pool in the Mediterranean.


Moving on to another water saving method, water recycling is an option for domestic water users. Good quality water can be saved if lower quality water replaces good quality water, if this can be done without adverse effects. Water from tap can be used at least twice, eg to flush the toilet. Use the water from the air conditioning condenser, dehumidifier, bath, or sink on plants or the garden. Make sure you don’t use water that contains bleach, automatic-dishwashing detergent or fabric softener, because this would contaminate and even kill your plants and vegetables. Additionally, in some areas the state provides a supply of properly treated wastewater which can be used for irrigation, saving the valuable fresh water. In many islands and areas use to collect and use the water from rainfall.

So far, we have discussed ways of saving water based on repairing leaks, reducing daily consumption and recycling water. Homes with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances save about 30% of indoor water use and yield substantial savings on water, sewer, and energy bills. One can replace old appliances, and apply water saving technologies:

Replace your toilet, the largest water user in your home. Consider purchasing a high-efficiency (6 liters per flush) toilet. If you cannot replace your conventional toilet make sure that you place a plastic container filled with water in the tank of the toilet, in order to reduce the volume of water.
Consider purchasing a high efficiency washing machine which can save over 50% in laundry water and energy use. This saves you money on both your water and energy bills.
Install a modern irrigation system with low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads.
Make sure your irrigation controller has a rain shutoff device and that it's appropriately scheduled. Most water is wasted in months prior to or just after the rainy season when intermittent rains occur.
Install moisture sensors on sprinkler systems.

7. Using Water Efficiency Ideas for Residences’ United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA832-F-99-082, April 2000 [Available online at]


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